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Doctors, patient chat through brain surgery

Roy Lumbe @lumbe_roy

Nakuru Level Five Hospital is the first county hospital to conduct awake craniotomy, a surgery of the brain while the patient is fully awake.

Doctors have been carrying out neurosurgery to remove tumours on at least four patients everyday, with each procedure taking about three hours.

The procedures are conducted by consultant neurosurgeons from Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) in collaboration with Nakuru County Referral Hospital, the University of Toronto in Canada and Egerton University.

Among the recent beneficiaries is Joseph Karuri, 33, who had an elongated tumour removed from a functionally important region of his brain while he was awake. Karuri had been suffering from severe headaches and seizures before tests revealed he had an elongated brain tumour, which required the operation.

He says at first, he was frightened when he was told he was to undergo an operation while he was still awake adding that it was a new experience to him. “I had never undergone an operation while awake. It was a frightening experience but it was over after some few hours,” he said.

During the operation, the lead surgeon Sam Njiru cut, probed and cauterised a malignant tumour in the skull, while Christine Gathiri, an anaesthesiologist engaged Karuri in a hearty conversation. In the end, the surgeon removed an elongated tumour that was nestling in a “functionally important part” of Karuri’s brain. 

Dr Njiru later explained the remarkable procedure allows surgeons to test how the operation is affecting the patient’s brain and function at every step of the procedure.

“During the operation, surgeons test how the procedure is affecting the brain of the patients at every step. So far, the procedures have been a success,” said Njiru.

During the brain surgery, Njiru says,  they keep asking the patient to speak and read more, adding that they also conduct movement tests while stimulating the brain.

“During the surgery, we talk to the patient to allow them stay awake as we also stimulate the brain through movements, the recovery is faster than in general  anaesthetise surgery,”said Njiru.

According to the hospital’s medical superintendent Joseph Mburu, the first awake craniotomy was conducted in Kenya in 2015.

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