In­dia needs 6,000 neu­ro­sur­geons

THE HEAL­ING TOUCH Head in­juries are a lead­ing cause of death in road ac­ci­dents in In­dia. Un­for­tu­nately, there are not enough neu­ro­sur­geons in the coun­try to save lives

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - HT Education - - Front Page - Rozelle Laha

When in school, Su­mit Sinha was wit­ness to a road ac­ci­dent which had the left the vic­tim bleed­ing with se­vere head in­juries. “See­ing his pain, I wished I could have helped him on the spot, not just by tak­ing him to the hospi­tal, but by at­tend­ing to him as a doc­tor,” says Sinha, now a neu­ro­sur­geon at All In­dia In­sti­tute of Med­i­cal Sciences (AIIMS) Delhi.

Af­ter this in­ci­dent, Sinha de­vel­oped an in­ter­est in neu­ro­sciences, which deals with treat­ment of head in­juries and be­hav­iour of the brain. He also cracked both All In­dia PreMed­i­cal Test and Com­bined Pre-Med­i­cal Test, join­ing the Saro­jini Naidu Med­i­cal Col­lege, in his home­town Agra for a bach­e­lor’s in medicine. He did su­per spe­cial­i­sa­tion in neu­ro­surgery from AIIMS, com­plet­ing his res­i­dency train­ing there and join­ing the in­sti­tute as fac­ulty.

“Head in­juries are a lead­ing cause of deaths in In­dia and one per­son dies in road ac­ci­dents every four min­utes. We have about 3,800 neu­ro­sur­geons for a pop­u­la­tion of a coun­try of 1.25 bil­lion. In the last five years, the govern­ment has increased the num­ber of seats for neu­ro­sur­gi­cal res­i­dency pro­grammes across the coun­try to 10 to 12 seats per year from the ex­ist­ing four to five seats,” says Sinha. “By 2020, we can ex­pect to have about 8,000 to 9,000 prac­tic­ing neu­ro­sur­geons in the coun­try, but with the ever grow­ing pop­u­la­tion, the num­bers will still re­main less. We need at least 5,000 to 6,000 neu­ro­sur­geons per an­num to fill the gap.”

Neu­ro­sur­geons spe­cialise in sur­gi­cal treat­ment of the ner­vous sys­tem for trauma, tu­mours, brain in­fec­tions, de­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases of the spine and pro­gres­sive dis­or­ders of the ner­vous sys­tem like Parkin­son’s dis­ease.

In case of head in­juries, im­me­di­ate treat­ment, of­ten termed as the golden hour, can save a per­son from slip­ping into a veg­e­ta­tive state. Sinha was part of the team that treated Falak, a two-year-old girl who evoked a me­dia storm af­ter she was ad­mit­ted to the AIIMS Trauma Cen­tre with se­vere in­juries in 2012. “She had blood clots in her head that needed ur­gent surgery. The worst thing about the brain is that it can­not re­gen­er­ate, un­like other parts of the body. We op­er­ated on her im­me­di­ately.”

Chances of post-op­er­a­tion com­pli­ca­tions af­ter brain surgery are higher in many cases. Once an in­jured brain gets in­fected, quick re­cov­ery for the pa­tient is im­pos­si­ble. Of­ten, he or she has to be put on ven­ti­la­tor sup­port, in­creas­ing chances of chest and blood in­fec­tion.

De­spite much heart­break, be­ing a neu­ro­sur­geon i s a re­ward­ing pro­fes­sion. “It is a won­der­ful feel­ing when you come out of the op­er­a­tion the­atre and tell a pa­tient’s rel­a­tives that the op­er­a­tion has been suc­cess­ful. Their hap­pi­ness makes you feel you have been able to give some­thing back to so­ci­ety,” says Sinha.

The Govern­ment of In­dia plans to set up 150 trauma cen­tres across all na­tional high­ways. Sinha, who was a part of the committee meet­ing held at the Min­istry of Health says that the coun­try does not have peo­ple to man these units. “Most doc­tors will be re­luc­tant to work in the cen­tres in the out­skirts of the city,” he says.

Neu­ro­sur­geons should lis­ten to what the pa­tient is ask­ing, con­vince him/her for the surgery and coun­sel them well.

SAUMYA KHAN­DEL­WAL

Neu­ro­sur­geon Su­mit Sinha is hap­pi­est when com­mu­ni­cat­ing news of a suc­cess­ful brain surgery to a pa­tient’s loved ones

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