Grace, an eight-year-old from Zambia who was born with a rare genetic syndrome, received ground-breaking reconstructive surgery last year at Tygerberg Hospital to correct a major skull defect by utilising 3D technology and bioengineered bone.
A positive sign
The surgical team included USA based Dr Ken Salyer, the Chairman of the World Craniofacial Foundation – who travelled to South Africa to work together with the local team.
Ten months post the completed bone graft, CT scans show that there is bone regeneration on her skull – a positive sign that the bioengineered bone is doing its job. “We usually expect the full bone regeneration to take about two years, so we are very positive about Grace’s progress so far,” says Graewe.
Read: Watch: Facial surgery gives baby new hope
Grace’s second surgery took place on 12 April and involved reconstructive surgery to correct the placement of Grace’s eye-sockets and her nose. “Grace’s condition resulted in her eyes being too far apart, we corrected this and also reconstructed her nose by using cartilage harvested from her ribcage,” says Graewe. “We’re very happy with her results and we don’t expect that any more surgeries will be needed for Grace at this stage.”
Akikere, a seven-year-old from Nigeria, suffers from Crouzon Syndrome, and before her surgery last year, she suffered from right-side heart failure as a result of the respiratory problems often seen in Crouzon cases.
In 2015, Graewe and Salyer detached Akikere’s mid-face and forehead from the skull, and implanted “distractors”, which would gradually push her face forward over time and therefore assist her breathing problems.
Read: Gene may increase disease risk in Down syndrome
Ten months later, not only have Akikere’s distractors have been removed, she is also now off all heart medication and her paediatric cardiologist says that her heart condition has clinically subsided.
A great learning opportunity
“The opportunity to work with the South African team on these two cases has been an absolute godsend and a pleasure, says Dr Salyer. “The co-operation between the World Craniofacial Foundation team and the South African surgeons, led by Dr Graewe, has resulted in excellent results.
Both of our young patients are doing well and the joint effort between the teams has been life-saving for our patients, and a great learning opportunity for all the surgeons involved.”