Indian doctors said Wednesday they have successfully carried out a first round of reconstructive surgery on the skull of a baby suffering from a rare disorder that caused her head to nearly double in size.
The surgery on the skull of one-year-old Roona Begum was carried out on Tuesday near New Delhi by the same surgeons who last week drained fluid from the youngster in a life-saving operation.
“We did the crucial head reconstruction surgery to reduce the size of her head on Tuesday. As of now, there are no complications,” neurosurgeon Sandeep Vaishya told AFP.
The procedure involved shifting and cutting bone and tissue parts and at least one more round of surgery will be required, according to Vaishya.
He said the baby’s health had “shown remarkable improvement” after last week’s surgery at the hospital run by the private Fortis Healthcare group.
During the first operation, doctors used a surgical drill to pierce her skull before draining fluid from her head in an operation lasting more than an hour.
Roona was born with hydrocephalus, a condition that causes cerebrospinal fluid to build up on the brain.
Her condition had caused her head to swell to a circumference of 94 centimetres (38 inches), putting pressure on her brain and making it impossible for her to sit upright or crawl.
She lives in an Indian village with her parents who were too poor to pay for treatment.
But publication of pictures taken by an AFP photographer in the remote northeastern state of Tripura prompted the hospital to offer to treat Roona for free.
The pictures of Roona have prompted an outpouring of support worldwide with prospective donors contacting AFP and other news organisations, enquiring how they could contribute to a fund for her and her family’s welfare.
Two Norwegian college students, Jonas Borchgrevink and Nathalie Krantz, started an online campaign that raised 52,000 to help her family and fund any future aftercare.
The students told AFP they have already established contact with a local media website in Tripura that will help send the money to the family.
Hydrocephalus is named after the Greek words for "water" and "head," and results from a pressurized buildup of cerebrospinal fluid, a clear liquid that cushions the nervous system, in the ventricles of the brain.
The condition can be present at birth or acquired later on in life, and its causes are still poorly understood.
Since hydrocephalic infants don't yet have hard skulls, the fluid pressure causes the head to rapidly expand. In addition to a swollen head, the condition can cause vomiting, seizures, and downward shifting of the eyes.
About one or two of every 1,000 babies may be born with hydrocephalus, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). While many can go on to lead normal lives if they are diagnosed and treated early enough, the condition can stunt cognitive and physical development. If it progresses too far, it can be fatal.
How the Hydrocephalus Shunt Surgery Worked
The most common treatment for hydrocephalus is shunt surgery, also known as ventriculoperitoneal shunting, in which a flexible tube is surgically inserted into a brain ventricle through the skull. The shunt in the brain redirects fluid to another part of the body through a catheter, where it can be easily reabsorbed by the bloodstream.
Because Roona had such a large amount of accumulated fluid, Vaishya's team first drained much of it from her swollen head until it had shrunk by a third. The shunt surgery was carried out afterward, allowing the remaining excess fluid to drain into her abdomen.
The AFP reported that Roona gained consciousness soon after, prompting her mother, 25-year-old Fatema Khatun, to burst into tears at the sight of her bandages.
Roona's father spoke for both of them when he told AFP that he was incredibly relieved to hear that the shunt surgery went well.
"It's been a stressful wait," said Rahman.