The surgical team, led by Jorge Gonçalves
The surgical team, led by Jorge Gonçalves performed the surgery last Thursday. The patient had been without a portion of his skull since 2016.

Innovative surgery (successfully) performed in Portugal for first time

Patient has already been discharged

At a time when hospitals and the Portuguese SNS health service appears to be getting nothing but bad press, it is heartening to learn of a ‘positive story’: one where innovative surgical techniques have been successfully applied, leaving a 54-year-old patient feeling the whole experience was worth it.

Praise in this regard goes to the neurosurgical team at CHUC (Coimbra university hospital) who have corrected a cranial deformity with an absorbable prosthesis

What does this actually mean? SIC/ Lusa explain, the patient suffered a work accident in 2016 in which his skull was badly fractured – so badly, in fact, that some of the bone was lost to contamination. This means he was without a portion of his skull since 2016. (In other words, the realisation of this innovative technique appears to have taken roughly seven years).

Henrique Cabral, neurosurgeon at CHUC, explains that CHUC’s Neurosurgery Service was called in to resolve “the aesthetic defect”. In another respect, it was also a physiological vulnerability (see below).

There have been no pictures released of this surgery, either before or after to show the extent of the ‘defect’ and/ or of the repair.

A statement from CHUC simply says “The surgery consisted of implanting an absorbable prosthesis made to measure the patient’s deformity and impregnated with the patient’s own bone marrow. This prosthesis was printed on a 3D printer in absorbable biomaterial”.

Henrique Cabral gives some of the background: “Knowing that the solutions presented by the biomaterials industry have evolved a lot in the last years, it was with this industry that we looked for a solution for this particular patient, since the existing products in the national market did not meet our needs nor those of the patient, given the location of the bone defect, so we resorted to international partners in the search for integrable materials that could not only meet the expectations of the patient but, above all, that could contribute to the resolution of the skull defect”.

According to Henrique Cabral, the surgery has “allowed us to find a solution adapted to this patient, moving towards the personalisation of care and the satisfaction of the patients’ expectations”.

The material that constitutes the prosthesis “will be absorbed and the aspirated bone marrow will differentiate into bone cells and promote ossification”.

“Besides the correction of the aesthetic defect that was in a visible area of the skull, it will allow the correction of the microcirculatory alterations of the underlying brain, besides correcting the obvious risk that the patient was running by not having a portion of the skull if he suffered any trauma,” Cabral concluded.

Says SIC/ Lusa, “the surgery was performed by a multidisciplinary team that involved the participation of neurosurgery, anaesthesiology, operating theatre and haematology services.

“The patient is well, having been discharged on the third day”, indicates the CHUC statement.

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