Girl receives rare spine surgery in Shanghai

Cai Wenjun
The patient suffers from a neuromuscular condition known as SMA, which causes deformity in the spine leading to complications for the heart and lungs.
Cai Wenjun

A 15-year-old girl has successfully undergone Shanghai's first surgery for spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) and is back in her hometown to celebrate Mid-Autumn Festival on Friday.

SMA is a rare neuromuscular disease which seriously impacts life quality. Many children with the condition die within the first few years after birth. Even sufferers with relatively mild cases can experience problems with their bones, muscles, lungs and heart when they grow up.

Almost all patients with SMA have curved spines and the condition typically deteriorates after patients enter puberty.

The girl who underwent surgery had a spine that was seriously deformed and pressed in her chest, threatening heart and lung function.

Doctors from Xinhua Hospital said curved spine surgery is the usual treatment for children with SMA in developed countries. About 80 percent of patients need surgery to control or repair their curved spines. There are nearly 50,000 SMA patients in China, but very few have received surgery due to concerns about its risks.

After the girl and her parents pleaded with doctors, the hospital decided to carry out the challenging operation to correct the her spine.

The surgery was conducted on August 27 and lasted for six hours. The girl has recovered well and is expected to return to school with improved mobility, doctors said.

Dr Yang Junlin from Xinhua Hospital said SMA patients should go to the hospital for early intervention and treatment. Most patients can control spinal curving through proper treatment and minimally invasive surgery in its early stages.

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