TWELVE doctors, including five neurosurgeons, have been trained on conducting hydrocephalus surgery in a cheaper and safer way. Hydrocephalus is a condition which results in accumulation of water in the brain and is usually seen through an enlarged head at birth or at a later stage.
Zimbabwe Association of Neurosurgeons secretary Professor Kazadi Kalangu said the training conducted by Spanish and Kenyan experts would see doctors diverging from implanting a shunt into the brain to drain excess water.
The surgeons would now use another procedure called neuroendoscopic ventriculostomy.
"A shunt is associated with many complications such as infections and is very expensive compared to the new procedure," Dr Kalangu said.
He said it costs an average of US$4 000 to have the operation done in private institutions and about US$700 in Government hospitals.
However, with the advent of neuroendoscopic ventriculostomy, Dr Kalangu said costs are anticipated to go down by more than half.
The team operated on 10 cases, mainly children, during the training.
Mr Kalangu said his association in partnership with the Government, University of Zimbabwe and the Neurosurgical Education Development Foundation have since secured equipment for use in future operations.
He said Zimbabwean neurosurgeons will start using the technique.
"This procedure was only available at Parirenyatwa Hospital because that is where the machines were available and it was only accessible to a few patients because the machine was only one. It was not available not even in private service," he said.
Director of clinical services at Parirenyatwa Hospital Mr Sydney Makarawo said the new procedure would assist disadvantaged children to get treatment.
"We are going to be able to do this operation on more babies who can not afford to buy a shunt, which costs US$250 as well as paying for the expensive operation. With this procedure their is nothing implanted in the system,"he said.
The doctors were trained by Dr Jose Dequers and Dr Mahmood Qureshi.
Dr Qureshi said his organisation, the Neurosurgical Education Development Foundation, has been promoting this procedure in resource constrained countries including Ethiopia and Kenya.
He said hydrocephalus is a treatable condition.
He urged parents to seek treatment early when they begin to symptoms and signs of the condition.
Hydrocephalus can be caused by a congenital problem or can be acquired at a later stage.
The common symptom is enlarged head but can also be accompanied by irritability, poor feeding, and lethargy.
In Zimbabwe, it is estimated that between five and 10 children per 1 000 are born with hydrocephalus.