BY CHIOMA OBINNA
“I saw him yesterday. For the first time in the past five years, he looked at his arm and burst into tears,” with these words Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon at the Royal Orthopaedic Hospital, Birmingham United Kingdom, UK, Dr. Segun Abudu, recounted how he and his team at the Lagoon Hospital Lagos successfully carried out the first metallic replacement of a whole arm bone and joints on a patient.
The surgical feat which is the first of its kind in West Africa, according to findings showed that only two or three centres could perform similar operations in UK.
Describing the feat as a pride to Nigeria and as one of the high-end surgery performed at Lagoon hospitals, Abudu noted that it is a testimony of top of the range specialists’ skills and care services available in the country.
Abudu said the “historic” surgery was performed on a banker in his late 30s who was involved in a road accident four years ago and was left with a nasty fracture of the right arm bone.
The patient’s arm was damaged in the accident and he could not use it for four years. The arm was also infected from the shoulder, down to the elbow. The patient had surgeries performed in four hospitals such that the bore failed to heal and got infected.
However, during the eight – hour surgery, Abudu and his team replaced the shoulder, elbow and arm to have what they describe as “a bionic man.”
Narrating the experience, Abudu said: “I have been to several countries doing this type of surgery and it really pained me that I am not able to offer same in Nigeria for years. Now have a hospital with the necessary facility that allows us to offer the surgery, is for me, God sent!
“It is important that as a country, we should be able to provide care for Nigerians in Nigeria and by Nigerians. I see it as a mark of national pride. Lagoon indeed allowed us to pride ourselves as a nation that we can deliver quality surgical services.
“He could not lift his hand, all the bones were infected. The only option available in many parts of the world would have been to amputate the arm. This man has not been able to go to work for three years. He was about to lose his source of livelihood. He has not been able to care for his family and that is not good prospect that any of us will like to bear.
“But the challenge then was how to remove all the infected bad bones. He had not moved the shoulder for about four years. The shoulder and the elbow were stalled there. Not only could he not do anything for years, he was feasibly deformed. We needed to be able to correct the deformity and give him an arm that works.”
Abudu explained that the surgery involved dissecting all the vessels, nerves and muscles to get to the bad bone; remove the whole of the arm from the shoulder. A specially made prosthesis (an artificial part of the body) was to replace the shoulder, elbow and the whole of the arm-bone.
“Not just that, though that allows him to move his shoulder and elbow to do other things, but he would still be deformed because the arm was short. So, we needed something that allows us to lengthen the arm so the arms will be equal in size again. And that is what we were able to do using expendable prosthesis.
“We worked with prosthesis engineer in this high-end surgery. Only 50 or 60 of these cases have been done in the whole of the UK ever. And I believe this is not a surgery that would have been done in Africa, certainly not in West Africa.”
An elated Abudu hinted that the team was able to carry out the surgery successfully, with the support of a competent team and facilities available in Lagoon hospital.
“It is not just being able to do the surgery that is important but being able to do it safely and successfully. The patient left the hospital about two weeks after the surgery and is currently undergoing physiotherapy. His surgeon expects him back at work in three months, though it will take another two months before he can drive his car. The prosthesis would last at least 20 years.
“I’m pleased that the Lagoon Hospital and its management – as a strategy – has thought it fit that Nigerians deserve to have good healthcare.
He further added that they have been able to review the first 80 cases of knee and hip replacement surgeries done in the hospital, adding that it is comparable to what obtains in the British National Registry.
Chief Executive Officer, Hygeia Group, Mr. Lars Stork said there was no need for Nigerians to travel abroad for medical services that could be obtained in the country.