In the medical field, one of such seemingly impossibilities is the Awake Craniotomy procedure – a neurosurgical technique. However, the evolution of science and technology has dispelled this myth.
It is even more impressive that Africa, a continent that is often regarded as ‘developing’ is beginning to record success in its practice and two countries setting the pace are Kenya and Nigeria.
So, what is Awake Craniotomy?
The University Hospital Southampton, in an online post defines it as, “an operation performed where a disc of bone is removed from the skull using special tools to allow access to the underlying brain but with the patient awake.” The idea behind this surgical procedure is to monitor neurological functions of the patients during the surgery to reduce the risk of brain injury. This way, surgeons are able to remove brain tumours and also improve chances of survival and quality of life.
Several reports have indicated that Nigeria recorded successful operations of awake craniotomy. In an article published in the Surgical Neurology International publication of Scientific Journals, it reported the successful operation of awake brain surgery on two patients at the University College Hospital in Ibadan, Nigeria. Findings revealed that after four hours of operation on each patient, there were no complications exhibited by both patients in the post-surgery monitoring.
The title of the publication, Challenging the myth of outpatient craniotomy for brain tumour in a Sub-Saharan African setting: A case of two patients in Ibadan, Nigeria. 24-April-2019; 10:71 by authors – James Ayokunle Balogun, Olusola Kayode Idowu and Adefolarin Obanisola Malomo said, “Both patients were clinically and neurologically stable with no new postoperative deficits and an unchanged KPS at discharge and no evidence of tumour recurrence in the second patient. None of the two patients required readmission or developed a new neurologic deficit”.
Similarly, The African Journal of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care also reported a case of awake craniotomy surgery done on two patients in Abuja in 2016. It was recommended that awake craniotomy requires provision of a high safety standard as well as a team of dedicated, skilful and experienced personnel.
Perhaps, Kenya’s case is even more impressive as reports indicate that this revolutionary surgical procedure has been in practice by its traditional healers in the past. It was a common practice by the Kisii or South Nyanza ethnic group to heal head pain at that time.
Kenya consolidated on that remarkable feat by performing its first awake brain surgery in 2015 followed by subsequent ones in 2018 at Kenyatta National Hospital led by Dr. Njiru and another on October 26 at the Nairobi Hospital.
The recent one was led by a team of professionals led by Dr. Mubashir Mahmood Qureshi who is the Chairman of the Neurological Society of Kenya, Aamir Qureshi as well as a team of anaesthetic specialists.
The common thread that runs through both nations’ practice of the surgery is the undeniable factor that the success of the procedure is dependent on the combination of top-notch equipment and skilful personnel. Kenya and Nigeria’s breakthrough is by no means an end but rather, a beginning of more avant-garde achievements in the medical field in the continent.