Nagpur: Do you know the one branch of surgery, which if available at the right time in the right place can make a difference of life and death?
Or, give the chance for patient to recover his former life rather than slipping into a vegetative state?
It is a neurosurgeon! And unfortunately there are very few of them in India.
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.
Dr.Vishal Bhasme, Consultant Neurosurgeon at Alexis Hospital, Nagpur is one of a rare breed of Doctors in India.
We have about 3,800 neurosurgeons for a population of a country of 1.25 billion!! Compare this to the need: head injuries are a leading cause of deaths in India and one person dies in road accidents every four minutes. . In the last five years, the government has increased the number of seats for neurosurgical residency programmes across the country marginally, but the increase is negligible compared to the need.
“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 6,000 new neurosurgeons every year to fill the gap!”
Why timely brain surgery is of vital importance?
“The worst thing about the brain is that it cannot regenerate, unlike other parts of the body. Brain injuries need to be operated on immediately.” Says Vishal.
Another complication of brain surgery and the reason it has to be very precise, needing a skilled hand, is because brain is such a complex structure that every part of it governs of a specific activity of the ‘mind and body’.
The phenomenal brain!
“Oh, screw beautiful. I am brilliant! If you want to appease me, compliment my brain!” ( the most famous quote on brain by one of the most famous TV characters, Dr. Cristina Yang of Grey’s Anatomy.)
As Dr. Bhasme explains, ” the brain weighs just 3 pounds but is responsible for controlling behavior, interpreting the senses and initiating body movement. It is the source of intelligence in our body. Nature has thus located it in its own casing! It is placed in a bony shell that is protected by brain fluid. That is the reason we entreat people earnestly to protect their most important ‘asset’ by wearing helmets while driving two wheelers, or entering into enclosed dark places, or at a construction site!”
He further explains that brain, though so small in size is divided into many parts. Each playing a distinct role. Just to give an example – Cerebrum constitutes the largest part of the human brain. It is also known as the cortex and is responsible for performing a great number of important brain functions, including action and thought processing.
Among the 4 lobes of the brain, the Occipital Lobe is tasked with the duty of interpreting the information being sent to the brain by the eyes. It is positioned at the back of the brain. If it is damaged, your visual ability will be affected, like unable to recognize colors, words and objects. Serious injury can even turn you blind.
“You injure the auditory cortex that processes auditory information in humans and you render him deaf for life!” Explains Vishal.
Thus the onus on the surgeon for operating precisely and getting at just those tumor cells without destroying any vital part of the brain.
This is where the role of minimally invasive endoscopic brain surgery becomes important and Dr. Bhasme has trained in just that from the famous Weil Cornell Medical Centre &New York Presbyterian hospital, N.Y. USA.
Before going to USA Dr. Bhasme did MCh in Neurosurgery from one of the premium Medical Institutes of the country, the Sawai Man Singh Medical College, Jaipur.
Though he never studied or lived in Nagpur, it is the love of his family’s hometown that has brought him back to take on an important department of Alexis, Nagpur’s newest and some would say, most ‘specialized’ medical center in Nagpur.
But then the hospital itself is testimony to love of Nagpur by an ex Nagpurian!
Dr. Zuleka Daud, the Chairperson of Alexis was once a student of GMC, Nagpur and after establishing a world class hospital in Dubai, where she now lives, when she decided to branch out in India, Nagpur is the first city she chose!
So does Alexis, Nagpur now undertake all kinds of brain surgeries for which patients had to go to Mumbai or Delhi? We ask Dr. Bhasme.
“Yes” he asserts, “why anywhere else in India? We are compatible with the best in the world.”
“And we still do not rest on our laurels. Refining our Art, learning newer techniques, delving deeper into details is our constant endevour.”
Dr. Bhasme in conversation with Sunita Mudaliar, Executive Editor, Nagpur Today.