SHARJAH // A minimally invasive procedure has changed the life of a female teenager yesterday who was born with two complete sets of reproductive organs.
The operation, the first of its kind to be carried out in the UAE, went off without a hitch, said Dr Hossam Al Din Hamdy, the vice chancellor for the Colleges of Medicine and Health Sciences at Sharjah University.
At the time of a 2006 study published in the medical journal Radiology, there had been only 180 similar cases recorded worldwide.
The initial diagnosis was made several months after the Sudanese teenager, who lives in Sharjah, began menstruation. The condition is a congenital anomaly not linked to any specific ethnicity or predisposing factors.
The girl was also born with only one kidney, which doctors did not discover until after the first consultation.
"I started my period when I was 11, and it was fine," the girl said, but "after six months, I started to feel a lot of pain". It left her bedridden for days at a time.
The obstruction of the left uterus resulted in months of severe abdominal discomfort for the patient, said Dr Hamdy.
"She has two completely separated uteruses, each one with its own Fallopian tubes and ovaries, and complete separation of two vaginas, one of which is completely obliterated.
"This led to the patient menstruating in this obstructed cavity. She menstruated in two uteruses but while one allowed blood to flow normally, one was completely blocked.
"There are many complications. Imagine a cavity which has blood in it.
"It will not burst, but she will be in continuous pain. It can destroy her life."
The operation, which was minimally invasive, took three hours.
"I was nervous at first, but I trusted the doctor. He was very nice to me and he calmed me down," she said, shortly before being released.
While watching television from her hospital bed, her parents and grandmother close by, she said the change in her body was instant.
"I feel different. I feel a little pain from the surgery, but I feel fine now."
The Grade 9 pupil will have to take antibiotics for three days.
"She wanted relief from the pain she had been suffering for six months," said her father, SA, a 44-year-old engineer.
The team at Sharjah University Hospital performed a laparoscopy on the girl to reduce scarring and recovery time, said Dr Hamdy.
"We wanted to do the operation without any abdominal surgery. The whole surgery was carried out through the vagina using scopes. It is a delicate operation."
The type of surgery considered was important in terms of preserving the teenager's virginity, said Dr Abdulmunhem Obaideen, the head of the hospital's radiology department.
"This is very important in this culture. We made a very small opening in the hymen using an endoscope."
The left uterus remained intact.
"The surgery was mainly to remove what we call a septum, which is a longitudinal and transverse vaginal septum, to create one vaginal cavity rather than having two," said Dr Hamdy, who added that the girl will be able to conceive naturally.
With only a few days of her school holiday left, and her recovery complete, the teenager wanted to return to school on Sunday, her father said.
"Can she?" he asked Dr Hamdy. "She is very clever."