About a month ago we told you about Dr. Benjamin Kennedy, fifth-year neurosurgery resident here at Columbia University Medical Center, who is volunteering at the CURE Children’s Hospital of Uganda (CCHU) in Mbale, Uganda. Here is the blog, if you missed it–Resident Neurosurgeon Dr. Benjamin Kennedy On Rotation In Uganda.
Well, we got some photos and an update from Dr. Kennedy and his experience sounds (and looks) incredible. We are all inspired.
“This small charity hospital is quite a phenomenon,” says Dr. Kennedy. “Their two neurosurgeons perform about seven surgeries a day, most of them endoscopic treatments for hydrocephalus, mostly infectious in origin.”
Hydrocephalus, often called “water on the brain,” is caused by a backup of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), a normal fluid that is made continuously by the brain. CSF provides nutrition and serves as a cushion for the brain and spinal cord. Normal pressure in the skull is regulated by release of CSF to the heart through large veins in the brain. Any number of problems including, a birth defect, a tumor, an infection, or bleeding can cause an interruption in this system and cause fluid to build up in the skull.
Hydrocephalus is most often noticed in infants when this pressure causes the skull to enlarge. Sometimes children with this condition also have developmental delays. If left untreated, hydrocephalus can lead to death or serious brain injury.
“Hydrocephalus is an enormous problem among infants in the developing world. Due to high birth rates, the lack of quality health care and tremendous poverty leading to issues such as malnutrition, the incidence of neonatal infection is higher in poor countries, which in turn leads to higher rates of hydrocephalus. In Uganda alone, it is estimated over 4,000 new cases of hydrocephalus occur each year.”–CURE Uganda
The standard treatment for hydrocephalus is surgical implantation of a shunt, a one-way valve that allows the excess fluid to drain off the brain. “Here in the developing world,” says Dr. Kennedy, “shunt-dependency becomes much more dangerous due to infection and lack of availability of immediate neurosurgical care.” To avoid using shunts, they have developed an innovative type of brain surgery called Endoscopic third Ventriculostomy, which allows the fluid to drain out through a chamber deep in the brain.
“They have made an incredible impact on the burden of this disease here in East Africa,” says Dr. Kennedy. “They have published their impressive outcomes and are continuing to further the clinical science. Beyond the privileges of treating these kids and learning from these innovators, it is also exciting to imagine and embark upon a search for how we might apply these new lessons learned in Uganda all over the world, and perhaps at home.”
If you would like to ask Dr. Kennedy a question about his experience at the CURE Hospital in Uganda, post a question on the Columbia Neurosurgery Facebook Page.
To learn more about CURE Uganda and to find out how you can help, go to cure.org/hospitals/uganda/.
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