American undergoes rare backbone surgery in Gurgaon

August 6th, 2008 - 10:18 am ICT by IANS  

By Prashant K. Nanda
Gurgaon, Aug 6 (IANS) Indian doctors have successfully operated upon a American national and replaced four discs from his backbone at one go, a rare feat that doctors here claim to be the “first in Asia”. A team of doctors led by orthopaedic and spinal surgeon Harshavardhan Hegde replaced four discs - two in the neck and two in lower back - in a marathon operation lasting over eight hours.

The patient, Kim Busk, 52, a construction contractor in the US, underwent surgery July 31 at the Artemis Health Institute, a super specialty hospital in suburban Gurgaon.

“As far as medical literature goes, we have not witnessed such a case, at least in Asia. This was a very difficult and tricky surgery. To replace two discs each at the neck and lower back at one sitting is unique,” Hegde told IANS.

“Two-level disc replacement surgery is a rarely conducted procedure in India due to the complications involved as it is requires a lot of precision. Four-level disc replacement surgery is a big milestone for the Indian spinal and orthopaedics fraternity as it is the first surgery of its kind to be performed in Asia.

“In two-level (replacing two discs) cervical disc replacement you not only have to open the vertebral column but also have to protect the food pipe during surgery. Hence, one has to be very careful,” Hegde explained.

A disc is the soft cushion between two vertebras and functions as a shock absorber for the backbone. Any degeneration of the disc creates severe pain in the neck, the backbone, the legs and the hands, and even can lead to paralysis.

He said: “Disc number 5-6 and 6-7 were replaced with metals discs in the neck. Similarly, metal discs replaced the L4-L5 and L5-sacrum bone discs in the lower back,” Hegde said.

While performing the lower back operation, Hegde said, great care had to be taken to protect the blood vessels adjoining the abdomen.

Busk had been suffering from disc degeneration for the last 10 years and was in severe pain.

“The patient has started moving around and will be fit to resume his normal life in six weeks time,” Hegde added.

Doctors at the hospital said that two patients from the US had previously undergone twin-disc replacement surgery and they, in turn, informed Busk about facilities at Artemis.

Besides the efficiency of the doctors, the cost effectiveness of treatment in India also prompted all three patients to come here.

“The surgery in India was a big saving for Busk. It cost him nearly $25,000 (Rs.1 million), including the cost of the artificial discs here. In places like Europe, he would have had to shell out in the region of $250,000,” Hegde pointed out.

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