DOCTORS CARRIED OUT life-saving surgery on an Indian baby suffering from a rare disorder that caused her head to swell to nearly double its size, in a case that aroused sympathy worldwide.
Doctors used a surgical drill to pierce 15-month-old Roona Begum’s skull before draining fluid from her head in an operation lasting more than an hour.
The youngsters’ parents, who have spent the last month at the hospital on the outskirts of New Delhi, spoke of their joy and relief after the operation which doctors described as exemplary.
“The surgery went perfectly, much better than expected,” neurosurgeon Sandeep Vaishya said inside the theatre.
“It’s definitely a success but it’s too early to say what the quality of her future life will be like,” Vaishya added.
Drain the fluid
Roona was born with hydrocephalus, a condition that causes cerebrospinal fluid to build up on the brain.
She was found in an Indian village last month living with parents who are too poor to pay for treatment.
Publication of pictures in the remote northeastern state of Tripura prompted a hospital, run by the private Fortis Healthcare group, to offer to treat Roona for free.
Vaishya, who heads the hospital’s neurosurgery unit, made a series of swift incisions along the right side of her head and stomach during Wednesday’s operation. He then used a drill to pierce her skull before inserting a shunt, catheter and valve.
Doctors were then able to drain the fluid out of her head and towards her abdomen where it could be absorbed easily into the bloodstream.
Her father 18-year-old Abdul Rahman, who was too nervous to speak to the doctors on the morning of the operation, said he was “hugely relieved” that the surgery was successful.
When Roona was born, local doctors told her parents to take her to a private hospital in a big city but the costs were too high for Rahman, an illiterate labourer who earns 150 rupees ($2.75) a day.
Roona’s condition had caused her head to swell to a circumference of 38 inches, putting pressure on her brain and making it impossible for her to sit upright or crawl.
On admission, Vaishya estimated her head weight amounted to half her total weight, leading him to believe that her body would struggle to absorb all the liquid if a shunt procedure were carried out immediately.
Roona regained consciousness soon after the surgery. The sight of her bruised and bandaged head provoked her mother, 25-year-old Fatema Khatun, to sob inconsolably until Vaishya reassured her of the operation’s success.
Vaishya said the child would need further surgery to reduce the size of her head.
“While the shunt will keep the head from getting bigger, the head is still too large at the moment. We will remodel her skull, move the bones and fix them with plates to reduce her head size so she can grow normally,” he said.
The shunt surgery is the most common treatment for hydrocephalus, a condition that affects about one in every 500 children, according to the US government’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Here’s a video of Roona’s operation: