Nine year old Weronika gets a new lease on life.

A team of doctors from a children’s hospital in Olsztyn performed pioneering skull distraction surgery on an 8-year-old girl. It was the first such operation on a child in Poland and the second in Europe!

On July 16, 2019, then 8-year-old Weronika Lange underwent major surgery. Specialists fought for the girl’s life. The innovative operation allowed doctors to change the shape of the child’s head, thanks to which the brain would be able to develop normally.

Weronika was born with a genetic defect consisting of abnormal skull structure. The girl was born with a congenital genetic defect, which manifests itself as abnormal pathological structures of the skull and face bones, which results in an abnormal shape of the head. Weronica had a so-called tower-shaped skull which in actuality was in the shape of a triangle. Bone deformation caused a premature union of cranial sutures. At the time, the brain did not have enough space in the skull to grow to the right size.

The operation was carried out by a team of doctors under the direction of prof. Dawid Larysz, a specialist in neurosurgery from the Head and Neck Surgery Department in Maxillofacial Surgery at the Children’s Hospital in Olsztyn. 👨‍⚕

“There were two very important goals to achieve in the operation. First,  to cut the skull, up to a millimeter, to bypass abnormal, pathological vessels. Then it was necessary to plan the distraction vector to the millimeter, the direction in which the skull would follow.”- explained the professor.

The novelty of the procedure was that doctors could plan everything in virtual reality beforehand and try different options. 👨‍⚕👩‍⚕

“We could produce an individualized template that allowed us to make millimeter cuts and produce for this particular girl distractors that also only fit into one specific place on the skull.”- added the professor.

Weronica still needs correction of the facial part of the skull, both in the orbital and maxillary region.

How many children in Poland are born with such a disease?

Statistically one sick child is born annually for every 2,000 births. Patients with craniosynostoses, such as those of Weronika, are between 1 and 3 a year. Children with such defects can be treated locally in Poland. “In our team, we have performed over a thousand skull reconstruction procedures. So we can say that we already have some experience.” – said the professor.

The Head and Neck Surgery Department of the WSSD in Olsztyn has been entered into the European Network of Reference Centers for craniofacial defects. It is the only center of this type in Poland and the only one for craniosynostoses in Central and Eastern Europe. As the professor admitted, the team of doctors working in Olsztyn underwent numerous trainings, and the most modern methods of treatment allowed many small patients to undergo surgery.

A child’s surgery is not everything. The whole process consists of interdisciplinary diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. The children are looked after by specialists in various fields of surgery, as well as pediatricians, ophthalmologists, geneticists and psychologists, speech therapists and physiotherapists. 👍👨‍⚕👩‍⚕

Cooperation with bioengineers is essential. It enables virtual planning of procedures and production of individual operating templates, implants or distractors in 3D printing technology.

Best wishes to Weronika! 😀

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