Two Ghanaian surgeons at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH) in Kumasi last Monday undertook a successful craniofacial operation on a two-and-a-half-year-old girl with a complex facial deformity known medically as frontonasal encephalocoele.
Craniofacial surgery is a surgical specialty that deals with congenital and acquired deformities of the head, skull, face, neck and associated structures.aa It is a highly specialised procedure and rare, with few specialists in the world.
With the case at KATH, a part of the child’s skull bone was removed and the skull was then reconstructed to correct the defect.
It took the surgeons eight hours to undertake the surgery.
The two surgeons, Dr Obiri Yeboah, a craniofacial surgeon, and Dr Frank Nketia Boakye, a neurosurgeon, were the same doctors that undertook the first craniofacial surgery in the country two years ago.
A Director of UAB Cleft and Craniofacial Centre in Birmingham in Alabama in the USA, Professor John H. Grant, and a neurosurgeon from Alabama, Prof. James Johnston, who were on a visit to the hospital assisted the two Ghanaian surgeons in the operation.
Prof. Grant encouraged parents in the country not to hide their children with cranial and facial deformities but to send them instead to the KATH where there were doctors trained to correct such malformations.
For his part, Dr Obiri-Yeboah said the work of craniofacial surgeons entailed reshaping deformed skull in children and repairing facial deformities such as cleft lip and palate. He said there were about 400 children born in Ghana each year with cleft lip and/or palate.
When he was asked how many people with deformed skull or face were operated on every day, Dr Obiri-Yeboah said the doctors did not place premium on the number of cases solved but rather on working to ensure the operations conducted were safe and properly done, as well as to impart knowledge to other practitioners.
A Consultant Neurosurgeon, Dr Anthony Lamina, also with KATH, commended the Daily Graphic reporter for having the courage to observe the surgical proceedings from start to finish.
The two Ghanaian surgeons received their training from Dr Grant's Craniofacial Centre in Birmingham, Alabama, in the USA.
According to Prof. Grant, people with facial and cranial deformities were mostly afraid to be operated on.
He said the form of surgery was invented by a French doctor named Tessier in 1967.
He added that the French doctor trained doctors from Europe and America and some from South America who had also trained others.
Prof. Grant, who is also a Director of Paediatric Plastic Surgery, said between 130 and 160 doctors worldwide had been trained in craniofacial surgery.
He said Dr Obiri-Yeboah was trained at his centre and he was followed later by Dr Boakye.
He said he was hopeful that many of the doctors he had trained would eventually train others in their home countries.
He said he had been visiting Ghana periodically to see how his students were performing and to offer support when it was needed.
For his part, a Consultant Neurosurgeon and acting Head of the Neurosurgery Department at the KATH, Dr Anthony Lamina, said he was expecting that the Craniofacial and Neurosurgery Department at the KATH would form a close link with the Daily Graphic considering that it was the most authoritative and widely read newspaper in the country, adding that such a close relation between the two would ensure that information on craniofacial deformities would be spread wide and well received by the masses so that the children and elderly who had stayed hidden would be emboldened to come out in the open and receive treatment.
Dr Lamina said it was important that information on craniofacial deformity got to the public for them to know that they did not have to live with stigma associated with the disfigurement since there was help available.
He commended Dr Grant and his team for their continued assistance to the hospital.