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Saving lives through interventional radiology: Dr Benjamin Dabo Sarkodie leads the way

BY: Hadiza Nuhhu-Billa Quansah
Dr Benjamin Dabo Sarkodie leads the way in interventional radiology
Dr Benjamin Dabo Sarkodie

The medical field in Ghana is experiencing significant breakthroughs that are changing healthcare delivery, with some prominent practitioners spearheading ground-breaking moments in the annals of the profession in recent years.

Among distinguished Ghanaian professionals driving innovation and redefining methods of handling some of the most complex medical cases is Dr Benjamin Dabo Sarkodie, Ghana's first certified interventional radiologist who has been a key member of a team of experts who continue to save lives.
 
Interventional Radiologists are specialist Physicians who rely on Medical Imaging for procedure guidance during surgery. These treatments tend to be more effective and less risky with minimal pain and shorter recovery time, compared to conventional open surgery. Interventional Radiologists operate in a special type of theatre called Cath Labs.
 
Dr Sarkodie, a Senior Lecturer at the University of Ghana Medical School and a Consultant Interventional Radiologist at the Korle Bu Hospital and Euracare Advanced Diagnostic Centre, a private medical facility in Accra, recently made the front pages after leading a seven-member team of Ghanaian doctors to perform the first ever brain surgery without cutting the skull.

Dr Sarkodie's exploits are helping the medical field in Ghana
 
It was a major breakthrough moment in the medical field in Ghana and further established the credentials of Ghanaian medical specialists in the use of cutting-edge technology to handle very complicated medical cases which previously were only performed overseas. Dr Sarkodie and his colleagues are demystifying the scariest of medical conditions and rewriting the scripts in the Cath Lab.
 
Background
His adventure into this unique field of medical practice took over a decade of hard work, having gone through medical school for six years, following which he specialised as a Radiologist for four years and later trained two additional years as an Interventional Radiologist, making it a 12-year medical study journey.

Dr Sarkodie's 12 years studying medicine have been worth it.
 
Dr Sarkodie explained to The Mirror in an interview that he had further training in the procedures of Neuro Endovascular Interventional Radiology, which technically, involves minimally invasive surgeries on the brain’s blood vessels without cutting through the skull.
 
“With this technology, there is no need to cut into the skull to do the surgery. The technique passes a tube (catheter) through the groin (junctional area between the abdomen and the thigh on either side of the pubic bone) up into the artery or vein to fix a multitude of problems”
 
 Who is an Interventional Radiologist?

As an Interventional Radiologist (IR), Dr Sarkodie is a specialist doctor who performs minimally invasive image guided surgeries, as well as provides the pre and post procedural care for those patients receiving these image guided surgical procedures.
 
Making a case for this innovative practice, Dr Sarkodie said the main benefits of Interventional Radiology techniques are that they can reach the deep structures of the body through a body orifice or tiny incision using small needles and wires. And with this, associated risks are minimised, pain is reduced, and a quicker recovery period is achieved; compared to open procedures.
 
According to Dr Sarkodie, sometimes people mistake Radiographers for Radiologists. “There is a vast difference between the two. Radiographers do not interpret results or make diagnosis. Instead, they are healthcare professionals who perform the imaging scans.

They operate various types of equipment and scan devices and also guide patients through the scanning process to ensure quality images are produced. On the other hand, radiologists are specialist medical doctors trained to interpret x-rays and other medical imaging tests. They diagnose various diseases using ultrasound, x-rays, CT scans, MRIs and other imaging technology. Radiologists interpret the findings of various imaging results to assist in making a diagnosis.”

He said through interventional radiology, he was able to treat men who have symptoms from benign prostate enlargement and could not undergo open surgery.
 
Adding that, “we also treat fibroids without cutting the abdomen and treat acute stroke once the person is brought into the hospital within six hours of the start of the symptoms.”
 
Dr Sarkodie said the acronym FAST (Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Speech difficulties and Time) has been used by the National Stroke Association, American Heart Association and others to educate the public on detecting symptoms of a stroke.
 
“The time to run to the hospital is always critical because the brain cells are dying therefore, we can reverse the situation in a timely fashion once the person is rushed in on time,” he explained.

Other treatments include treatment of obstructed blood vessels and aneurysms by deploying stents (metallic mesh) in nearly every part of the body including the brain.

Training Interventional Radiologists

Dr Sarkodie is already passing on knowledge and experience acquired in the specialist field by training other practitioners under the Ghana College of Physicians and Surgeons. He currently has three (two men and a lady) undergoing training.
 
Cost of treatment
 This novel but highly effective procedure does not come cheap. According to Dr Sarkodie the cost of each procedure depends on the ailment being handled but remains more affordable than seeking such a treatment overseas.
 
“No matter what, it is still better than travelling outside the country when the same treatment can be done right here in this country.”

“I am indirectly promoting medical tourism. I have people coming from many different African countries to seek treatment in Ghana. Besides, I have established links with some of the centres I trained outside the country so when we have extremely difficult cases I join the medical team outside for treatment to save lives,” he stated.
 
Family life
 
Dr Sarkodie is a family man who is married to Maame Tiwaa Sarkodie and they have three children.
 
A devout Christian, he worships with the Christian Action Faith Ministries.
 
When he is not in the lecture hall, consulting room or theatre, he spends his time playing Golf, a sport that teaches players such values as patience, concentration and accuracy which become very valuable in the operating theatre.
 
“I am an avid Golfer and I play during my spare time. I am a member of the Bok Nam Kim Golf Course and sometimes at the Achimota Golf Club as well.”
 
On his education journey, he had his secondary education at Bishop Herman College and pursued his medical programme at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology.
 
He specialised in Radiology at the Korle Bu Teaching Hospital but travelled to Singapore to specialise in Interventional Radiology for a year, and subsequently to South Korea and India for further training.
 
“Some of these centres are the busiest centres in the world doing about 15,000 surgeries a year. The fellowships in South Korea, India and Germany were for neuro-interventional radiology training,” he indicated.