National 30.8.2016 02:59 pm

Spinal surgery gives children new hope

Little Mckenna Atson of Cape Town was born with three malformed vertebrae which caused a progressive deformity as she grew older.

Little Mckenna Atson of Cape Town was born with three malformed vertebrae which caused a progressive deformity as she grew older.

The little girl was born with three malformed vertebrae that caused a progressive deformity as she grew older.

A complex spinal reconstructive operation to straighten the spine of an 18-month-old toddler has not only saved her from a life of pain and possible paralysis but also brought hope to other young scoliosis sufferers.

Dunn, one of South Africa’s foremost spine surgeons, said Mckenna required highly intricate surgery, and it was one of the more complex surgeries he had to perform on such a young child.

Little Mckenna Atson, of Cape Town, was born with three malformed vertebrae that caused a progressive deformity as she grew older. Professor Robert Dunn, an orthopaedic spine surgeon who operated on her at the the UCT private academic hospital in Cape Town, said at 18 months and just 9kg, Mckenna was extremely young and small to undergo spinal surgery to correct the deformity.

Surgery became imperative before she suffered irreversible damaging complications as she grew, including severe structural imbalance, respiratory dysfunction, probable spinal cord compression and even possible paralysis.

Dunn, one of South Africa’s foremost spine surgeons, said Mckenna required highly intricate surgery, and it was one of the more complex surgeries he had to perform on such a young child.

‘She has always been a highly active child, but we were rather astonished when she asked to walk on the second day after the operation.’

“We were able to correct and straighten her spine, and we expect Mckenna to have no further problems and to grow normally now. “It was most gratifying to see this brave young girl walk herself out of the hospital just three days after the operation,” he said.

Mckenna’s mother, Lee-Ann Atson, said her daughter had made an excellent recovery and was now able to stand up completely straight, whereas her gait had been increasingly skewed to the left prior to the operation.

“She has always been a highly active child, but we were rather astonished when she asked to walk on the second day after the operation … My husband and I are so thankful to every who made it possible.

“She just had her checkup, and her doctors are pleased with her progress. She is an absolute bundle of energy and joy at home,” she said.

In the same week of Mckenna’s operation, Prof Dunn also operated on a 13-year-old girl from Mauritius with adolescent idiopathic scoliosis, achieving a dramatic correction of her spinal deformity. In another recent case, a child from Durban was treated at the hospital’s new paediatric surgical centre for a type of spina bifida.

The hospital’s general manager, Lieselle Shield, said they were now able to offer a world-class service for the management of all types of childhood scoliosis and to perform intricate paediatric orthopaedic procedures on the most difficult of cases.

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