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Doctors in India operate to shrink football size head of 2-year-old girl from Tajikistan

Doctors in India operate to shrink football size head of 2-year-old girl from Tajikistan

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Sagaya Fernando
Mumbai: August 22, 2018

A 2-year-old girl named Maryam from Tajikistan who was suffering from Congenital Hydrocephalus with megalencephaly (growth developmental disorder in which the brain is abnormally large) was recently operated upon in a rare surgery by doctors in India to reduce her head size and give her a new lease of life.

Baby Maryam was born with Hydrocephalus, a condition in which body fluid gets collected in the brain causing the head size to increase abnormally. For her, mobility was next to impossible, and she had been struggling with this condition since she had been one month old.

“The head is the heaviest part of the body, and if the head becomes too big and heavy, a small child will not be able to develop enough muscles to hold the head. Baby Maryam was never able to turn in bed and was lying straight. Her mother had to hold her head constantly even while sitting on lap. She underwent a small procedure at Tajikistan to drain the fluid, but it was too late. Her head circumference was 72 centimetres and had come down to 65 centimetres. However, by that time her bones had fused and the head couldn’t become small further. This is a very challenging job in little children, as multiple corrective surgeries have to be done to reduce the size of the head,” said Dr Sandeep Vaishya, Executive Director of Neurosurgery at Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurgaon, India, who led the surgical team that operated on Baby Maryam.

“Hydrocephalus is a condition that occurs when fluid builds up in the skull and causes the brain to swell. The name means ‘water on the brain’. Normally the brain fluid keeps on circulating. About 500 ml is produced every day. In some people, the artery is blocked and the fluid gets on collecting in the brain. In children, as the bones are not fused, the size of the brain increases due to this condition. If surgery is done immediately, it reduces the risks and normalcy can be restored. In some cases where it is delayed, the child dies. But in some rare cases, the size of the brain increases and the child survives. However, brain damage can occur as a result of the fluid buildup. This can lead to developmental, physical, and intellectual impairments. It requires treatment to prevent serious complications,” explained Dr Vaishya.

In 2013, Dr Vaishya had successfully operated on baby Roona Begum (from Tripura, India) who had the record of having the largest head in the world (94 cms) at the age of nine months. This case was covered by CNN and Discovery Channel made a documentary on the child. This was seen by Maryam’s parents who then decided to get the surgery done by Dr Vaishya and approached him.

“We were reluctant to perform the surgery as chances of improvement in such cases are extremely low and the risk factors are extremely high. However, the family was ready to give consent despite the risks. We performed eight surgeries on the patient over a period of five months, spanning from March to July. We managed to reduce the size of the head, but the surgery proved to be extremely challenging. At one point, we almost lost her, but she fought back,” said Dr Vaishya.

“Though it is still early, we have noticed some positive changes. Her last CT scan showed good brain development and she has started to lift her head. While there are chances of brain damage, it is her best chance to live a nearly normal life,” he added further.

Being from a poor background Baby Maryam’s family couldn’t afford the cost of the surgery which is about Rs 25 lakhs to Rs 30 lakhs, but the employer of her grandmother who works in Dubai stepped in and bore the cost of the surgery, said Dr Vaishya.

Dr Vaishya has done a similar surgery on a 4-year-old Russian boy called Matvei at a hospital in Moscow in January this year. “He has improved much since the surgery. He is able to walk with assistance and utter some sounds post-surgery,” said he. 


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