A Scoliosis team from NNUH, led by Girish Swamy, Consultant Orthopaedic and Spinal Surgeon, has returned from a trip to India where, for the second year running, they performed corrective surgery on children with complex scoliosis.

2Girish was joined by two other surgeons from Italy and Palestine. They were invited by Operation Straight Spine Trust, a charity which funds surgical and medical care for underprivileged children with musculoskeletal diseases in India.

The Norwich team included Charlotte El-Labany, Scoliosis Co-ordinator and Advanced Nurse Practitioner at NNUH; Emmanuel Gavan, Theatre team Leader in Orthopaedic Surgery, and Sergio Cecchelli, Surgical Care Practitioner at Spire hospital in Norwich.

“Scoliosis is a condition where the spine twists and curves,” said Girish. “Without corrective surgery, patients can live in severe pain, disability and can suffer from recurrent chest infections and heart problems. It also leads to severe psychological and social distress. Within the rural parts of India, this can be a significant taboo.”

The team spent a week in Kolkata and operated on eight children aged 5-17 from India and Bangladesh. They’ve operated on 19 children in total, including 11 surgeries last year.

They performed growth rod insertion in very young children and more definitive fixations in older patients to correct and straighten the spine, including re-do operations. Each operation can take from six to eight hours or longer and is extremely complex because the work is carried out so close to the spinal cord and the spinal nerves.

The operations were observed by over 20 other surgeons from the sub-continent and nursing staff from Kolkata were also given specialist training in managing these complex patients. Charlotte also spoke about the pathways to perform these surgeries safely, educating the ITU staff, while Emmanuel and Sergio educated the theatre nurses on the principles of theatre management.

On the last day, the team also lectured at the Kolkata Spine Deformity Conference at the Jagannath Gupta Institute of Medical Sciences and Hospital (JIMSH).

Girish delivering a Lecture“Scoliosis is a condition which can be treated, but with highly specialised care and surgery,” added Girish. “Without an operation, patients struggle with day-to-day life and can become severely disabled, so it really is life-changing. Without the charity funding, these underprivileged children wouldn’t have been able to have these complex and expensive surgeries. All the operations were successful.

“The local team and the wider community in Kolkata were very impressed and grateful for our continued support and for providing this service two years in a row. The local media have widely applauded the efforts of the Norwich team and for educating the rural population about the condition. My colleagues and the wider spinal team at NNUH will continue to support the scoliosis surgery charities.”