It was a condition called ‘occipital encephalocele’ and it affects one in 5,000 births in the GCC.
With 30 per cent of its brain outside the skull, a newborn in Sharjah had a slim chance of survival – but the baby made it, thanks to the specialists who worked together in one of the most complex surgeries they have ever encountered.
The anomaly was discovered when the Emirati mother underwent a routine scan at Al Zahra Hospital. It was a condition called ‘occipital encephalocele’ and it affects one in 5,000 births in the GCC.
The mother and family were promptly informed that a multidisciplinary team would be required to perform the operation. Having had three successful deliveries at the hospital in the past, the family decided to push through with the procedure.
A C-section was performed when the mother, who was in her 38th week of pregnancy, went into labour, and the baby was immediately rushed to the neonatal ICU, where it was kept under extreme sterile conditions and monitored round the clock.
“This case was unique. It was crucial to have a multidisciplinary team and an obstetrician who has dealt with a similar case in the past. In my 30 years of experience, this is only the second time I have encountered such a case,” said Dr Shama Nawaz, consultant obstetrics and gynecology, who led the team that delivered the baby.
To tend to the baby’s brain outside the skull, a team under Dr Bobby Jose, specialist neurosurgeon and clinical administrator, took over to perform the two-stage surgery.
In the first stage, the protruding part of the brain was carefully dissected and separated on the fourth day of the baby’s birth. It was then placed back into the skull and an artificial membrane was used to cover the exposed part.
During the second stage of the procedure on the eighth day, the fluid that accummulated in the brain was drained out in a shunt surgery, where a tube was inserted from the brain into the stomach of the baby.
To perform this surgery the baby was administered a high dose of anesthesia, keeping it unconscious for several hours.
Dr Jose said: “It was an extremely complex case. The part of the brain outside the skull had to be carefully handled and repositioned inside. Then, recreating the covering of the brain was an extremely delicate and intricate job. The anesthesia for such a small child was very demanding which was well handled by our anesthesia team under Dr Hazem Daaji and Dr Ayman Hassan.
“The support of the pediatricians and neonatal team was very crucial in ensuring success of the surgery and outcome.”
The child was discharged on the 20th day, after exhibiting full recovery after the operation.
The parents were extremely delighted and relieved, as they had very limited options for the procedure, owing to the Covid-triggered travel restrictions.
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