Bed rest cut for spine surgery

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 May, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 May, 1993, 12:00am

CHILDREN suffering spinal deformities no longer have to bear long periods in bed after surgery, thanks to modern technology.

It is estimated that one in 20 people aged between 10 and 20 suffer spinal deformities, and the problem is more prominent among those between 11 and 14.

Such deformities are four times more common among girls than boys, although the reasons are not known.

Medical director of the Duchess of Kent Children's Hospital, Dr Keith Luk Dip-kei, said yesterday that the illness could worsen if untreated, leading to deformities to the rib cage and threatening heart and lung conditions in some cases.

Dr Luk said the conventional surgical method for correcting the deformity was to fuse spinal sections with alloy rods and bone grafts so that the spine could be straightened.

But patients had to be encased in plaster from the neck almost to the abdomen for up to six months.

''The new surgical method is to use two alloy rods instead of one and anchor them at more places on the spine than previously, which provides more rigid fixation, and a cast is therefore not needed in most cases,'' Dr Luk said.

Patients could be back at school two weeks after surgery, he said. He admitted the risk of causing paralysis to patients during the operation would double from less than one per cent under the conventional method.

But with the latest monitoring equipment, not one patient had been paralysed in 40 operations performed using the new method, he said. Doctors were nevertheless concerned that there was no qualified technician to man the equipment.

The hospital had proposed to the Hospital Authority that it set up two specialised centres to conduct spinal operations so that resources could be more effectively used, Dr Luk said.

One of the centres would be the Duchess of Kent Children's Hospital, which had performed the majority of spinal operations in the past 25 years, and the other would be the Prince of Wales Hospital in Sha Tin.