Badaru and his wife Malama Badariyya of Nigeria had lost all hope of saving their eight-month-old twin daughters, Hussaina and Hassana, who were born with their spinal cord fused together. The doctors in Nigeria had told them that they might have to sacrifice one daughter to save the other. Malama, however, had doubts if one twin would survive without the other. “I think it is one life governing the other. They cannot live without each other,” she told Dr. Prashant Jain, Consultant Paediatric Surgery at BLK Super Speciality Hospital in Delhi, where the couple took their daughters six months ago in the hope of seeing a miracle.
Jain had not handled a case like this before, so he was not too confident initially. But Malama's concern for her daughters encouraged him to do research on the surgery. He found just four to five such documented cases in the world. So, he held a brainstorming with his colleagues.
The surgery was going to be a complicated one that involved life-threatening risks. Jain, however, decided to do it. With the help of modern 3D imaging techniques, Jain and his team of 12 doctors studied each vessel and nerve involved in the surgery. They rehearsed for hours on clay dummies. On the day of the surgery, the monitors, wires and instruments to be used in the surgery were colour-coded. The surgery lasted 16 hours. The separation surgery took 12 hours and reconstructing the twins' vagina, anus and rectum took another four hours.
Four months later, the girls returned to India to celebrate their first birthday with the people who changed their lives. They were cheerful and in perfect health. “Looking at them now, you cannot tell that they were joined once,” says a doctor, who was part of the team.
This is just one among the many success stories that are being written in hospitals across India. In most hospitals today, doctors still depend on CT scan images, which provide only a two-dimensional view of an organ. However, the 3D images made from polylactic acid provide a better view of the vessels, bones and tissues involved in the surgery.
“It was like holding the skull in my hands. I could see the bones from every possible angle,” says Kumar. “It helped me in designing my surgery with precision.”
The use of 3D imaging has changed the way surgeries are being approached. Doctors now know in advance what to expect on the operation table and are, therefore, better prepared. Apart from 3D imaging, doctors are using 3D printing surgical instruments, which are cheaper and can be customised according to the surgery.
Three-dimensional prosthetics is another area that holds promise. For people who lose their limbs to an accident or disease and can't afford costly prosthetics, 3D printed prosthesis could be a good alternative.
SPY imaging is another technique that allows the doctors to capture, review, print and archive high-quality image sequences of blood flow in vessels and micro-vessels, tissue and organ perfusion in real time during surgery.
Another success story is that of Praveen Kumar, 56, of Delhi, who lost his leg in an accident in 1984. Kumar could not get a prosthesis because the remaining stump on his leg had turned 90 degrees, pointing towards the ceiling.
Years later, while visiting a friend, who was admitted in BLK Super Speciality Hospital, Kumar met Dr. Yash Gulati, an Orthopaedic Surgeon. Kumar's case made Gulati curious. So, he offered to do a free check-up on him. A CT scan revealed that Kumar had ankylosing spondylitis because of which his hips and spine had fused together. He underwent a hip replacement surgery following which the twisted stump came back to its normal position. Kumar then got himself a prosthetic leg. “He is now on physiotherapy to mobilise his thigh muscles, which have not been in use for the past 30 years. Soon, he would be walking,” says Gulati.