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04 December 2008

Doc performs amputation via sms

A British doctor performed a life-saving operation on a teenage boy in the DRC by following instructions for the complicated surgery via text message from a colleague in London.

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A British doctor performed a life-saving operation on a teenage boy in the Democratic Republic of Congo by taking step- by-step instructions for the complicated surgery via text message from a colleague in London.

David Nott, a 52-year-old vascular surgeon who works for Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF), found the 16-year-old boy with his left arm ripped off and gangrenous in the town of Rutshuru in October, British media reported. "He was dying. He had about two or three days to live when I saw him," said Nott, who is based at London's Charing Cross Hospital.

The boy had been caught up in the fighting between rebel and government forces, he said. Nott said he realised that the boy's best chance of survival was a forequarter amputation which required removal of the collar bone and shoulder blade.

Doc followed instructions via sms
He had never himself carried out such an operation, but texted a colleague in London who responded by giving him step-by-step instructions via text messages. "Even then I had to think long and hard about whether it was right to leave a young boy with only one arm in the middle of this fighting," Nott said. "But in the end he would have died without it, so I took a deep breath and followed the instructions to the letter. I knew exactly what my colleague meant because we have operated together many times."

The operation is only performed about 10 times a year in Britain, usually on cancer patients, and requires careful planning and the back-up of an intensive-care unit. However, in Rutshuru, Nott had just one pint of blood and an elementary operating theatre.

The operation, performed in October, was a success and the teenager made a full recovery. Nott, who works for MSF for a month every year, said: "I love being able to save someone's life. It was touch and go whether he would make it so when I saw his face on the MSF website afterwards, it was a real delight," the doctor said about his patient. – (Sapa, December 2008)

 
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