x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Visiting doctors perform rare spinal operation on teenager with scoliosis

Two French doctors perform complex spinal surgery, the first procedure of its kind in Ajman, in a double operation on a 13-year-old girl.

AJMAN // Two French doctors have performed complex spinal surgery, the first procedure of its kind in the emirate, in a double operation on a 13-year-old girl who faced serious complications without it. Alia bint Mohammed was born with scoliosis, a condition in which the spine develops one or more abnormal curves. Scoliosis can affect the body's overall balance and alignment, and in Alia's case had caused severe hunching, which compressed her chest cavity and so threatened her heart and lungs.

Norbert Basooti and Yan Byron, visiting from France, carried out the surgery in two stages over two days at Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Hospital in Ajman last week. According to Dr Wajih Sisi, the director general of the orthopaedic and spine surgery department, an X-ray examination showed that the girl's spine had a curvature of almost 150 degrees; surgery was recommended to correct it as much as possible, to prevent further curvature and to relieve pain.

Over four hours on the first day, the surgeons opened the girl's body from the front and managed to reduce the distortion by 30 degrees. They also cleaned the vertebrae and repaired cartilage defects. In an eight-hour operation the next day, they went in from the back, sorting out the nerves and straightening the spinal cord. After two days in intensive care, Alia was given breathing exercises and physiotherapy for her lower limbs and chest.

Within a week she was walking without assistance and making a full recovery, according to Dr Sisi, who said the French surgeons had now left the country but that the department was monitoring her progress. Mohammed Rashid, her father, said he had prayed all the time his only girl was on the operating table and that his prayers had been answered. "When I read in the papers that two doctors from France specialising in spinal cord were visiting Sheikh Khalifa Hospital in Ajman with all the best technology, I was so excited and told my wife we have to take our daughter to these doctors," he said.

Thanking the doctors, the teenager said it had been hard to deal with the pain, which had flared intermittently. "I would be fine one minute and miserable the next," she said. Pain relief prescribed by her doctor had helped but had done little to keep the curve in her spine from getting worse. Dr Hammad al Shamsi, the general director of Ajman Health Zone, said that visits by foreign specialists were part of the orthopaedic department's process of development, and were aimed at training local staff.

He said that during their two weeks at the hospital, the French doctors had seen 150 patients, had carried out 25 operations and had also given lectures in Ajman and Sharjah. ykakande@thenational.ae