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Back-breaking wait over for kids with spinal injuries

Aug 22, 2007 03:03 AM IST India India
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Chennai: Six-year-old Jaishree has just turned a corner, four years after being diagnosed with a spinal deformity called Scoliosis.

Her spine was curved into the shape of an S, and she found it difficult to walk, so her parents would prefer to keep her at home.

Says her mother, Sasikala, "I would send her to school, but I was always scared about what would happen if she fell or got hurt."

The treatment of scoliosis traditionally involves the insertion of rods and implants to fuse the spinal vertebrae and is usually done only when the child is 10. This would have meant a four year wait for Jaishree.

But luckily, she's one of the first patients in the country to benefit from a relatively new technique.

Consultant Spine Surgeon Apollo Hospitals Chennai, Dr Sajan K Hegde used a set of staples - made out of an alloy of nickel and titanium - to hold her inter-vertebral discs together.

"The alloy has a unique property of expanding at lower temperatures and contracting in the body heat. It can be used to correct deformities in infants and really young children," says Dr Hegde.

Unlike the traditional surgery, this procedure does not shorten the patient's upper body, but it's not cheap. The two-and-a-half hour surgery costs about Rs 3 lakh and patients need to be monitored until adulthood.

Jaishree now goes to school like most children of her age. She can also walk normally. The new surgical procedure might still have to stand the test of time, but right now, it's a great step forward for Jaishree.

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