Xiao to visit Mumbai to treat spina bifida patients
India Today - Nishat Bari - Dec 28, 2009
Dr. Chuanguo Xiao of China has developed a nerve re-routing surgical procedure to treat patients suffering from Spina bifida, a disorder of the spine, as well as other related spinal injury disorders. He had been invited to Mumbai for a week by Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital to conduct the surgery on patients as well as train doctors about the procedure.
Spina bifida is a congenital defect where the patient has no sensation or control of his bladder or bowels. Though people have this defect since birth, spinal injuries can also lead to the condition. Patients are dependent on diapers or catheter (a tube inserted into the bladder to drain bodily fluids) to cope with the condition and there is no other treatment for it.
Xiao has successfully treated the condition in over 1500 patients by re-routing the nerves from the bladder and bowels to the thighs. This is done using a part of a nerve from the patient's leg. The result is that the patient can activate his bladder or bowels on his own by scratching a spot on his thigh.
He has conducted 8 successful surgeries at Ambani Hospital with the help of a core team, comprising of Dr. Amrish Vaidya, Dr. Ketan Parikh, Dr. Abhaya Kumar and Dr. Poornima Shah. The surgeries have been sponsored by the hospital and the cost of the procedure is expected to be ascertained within 2-3 weeks. The hospital already has a long list of people who have enlisted for the surgery. In the US the surgery costs $45,000.
It takes about 5-6 months after the surgery for the nerves to grow before a result can be seen. In certain cases it can take almost 2 years before a change is noticed. The success of the surgery varies if the patient has undergone prior surgeries on the spine. In such cases the nerves have already been weakened by surgery and can take longer to grow. Xiao says that if the Xiao Procedure is carried out at an early age, the patient can even regain sensation of the bladder and bowels.
Xiao has been researching the procedure for the last 10 years, the first 8 on animals. He performed the first surgery on a person in China in 1995. In some of his first patients he noted a slight weakness in the patient's leg post the surgery. This was because he would use a whole nerve from the leg for the procedure. However, he has modified the technique and now uses only half or one third of the nerve, and says there are no side effects of the procedure.
Xiao is a professor and Chairman of the Department of Urology at Union Hospital, Tongji Medical College in China. He became interested in treatments for spinal injuries while he was a resident doctor at Hubei Medical College in China in 1976 when a huge earthquake killed thousands of people. Many of the victims suffered from spinal injuries. He has performed surgeries in several countries including USA, Germany, Denmark, Australia, and has been invited by several more including Philippines, Canada and Japan.
There are 80,000 new cases of Spina bifida in China each year. In India there are 25000 to 30000 new cases a year, or 5-7 cases per 1000 births. It can be diagnosed at birth as the children born with it have a lesion on the lower back.