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Reliable Neurosurgery at Bethel Teaching and General Hospital, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
There is nothing more frightening for an Ethiopian family than to find out that a loved one is suffering from an illness or injury which has affected the brain or the spine. Often times the family feels almost forced into making a decision between a choice of two bad outcomes: letting the disease process or injury go untreated or decide to proceed with an operation which they believe has little chance of success. Fortunately, this is really a false choice because in reality most of the time surgery for many conditions affecting the brain and spine offers a very good chance at improving the condition at a reasonable risk.
It would be wrong to say that major surgery is of no risk but at the same time the level of risk for surgery for serious conditions affecting the brain and spine is probably much lower than the reader may currently think. Every day we make decisions that put our life potentially at risk such as driving a car to work or to visit someone, taking a plane trip, or even just crossing the street. We potentially risk our lives when we do these things because we assume the risk is low and because we have experienced them in past without suffering a bad consequence. Most people when faced with a medical condition that may benefit from surgery find it harder to make a decision because they have never experienced surgery before and may be misinformed about the purposed surgery’s risk.
Today most brain and spinal operations done at the Bethel Teaching and General Hospital in Addis, Ababa, Ethiopia under nonemergency conditions have a risk of death of less than one in a thousand and a risk of major complication of less than 5 %. Even for the 5 % who have a complication for the vast majority this will be a treatable temporary condition. The earlier a surgery is done for the injury or disease often times means an even lesser chance of complication and a greater chance for recovery of lost function. Unfortunately many times families think surgery is so risky that they will often wait to decide on surgery for a loved one until the condition deteriorates severely.
Another commonly held misconception is that surgery for problems in the brain or spine rarely if ever improves the condition. Families may feel that the chance of relieve from disability is akin to the chance of winning the lottery. On the contrary, for the vast majority of conditions there will be significant improvement in pain or the disability caused by the disease or injury. Even for those situations in which no improvement may occur the surgery may stop the progression of loss of function or in the case of some types of tumors significantly delay that progression for a considerable time even if a cure is not possible.
If you were to come to our Neurosurgery clinics, you would meet people who prior to surgery could not work or even walk without difficulty who now have returned to happier and more productive lives. You would see children, who thanks to surgery, are now able to have higher goals in developing themselves than they would - had they not undergone surgery. You would encounter senior citizens who have become more independent and functional thanks to operation.
Many concerned Ethiopians ask the question – Is there health care available which is of reasonable quality? The Neurosurgery Department at Bethel and the whole of Bethel Teaching and General Hospital strive to constantly maintain levels of care well above the minimum required and at the highest level possible. Our institution has spent more than millions of birr in obtaining the latest technology including MRI for imaging of the brain and spinal cord, intra-operative microscopes, lighting and operating room equipment, spinal and brain implants from around the world, and training and equipping our ICU (intensive care unit). Working with the Ministry of Health we are striving to be among the first institutions to meet and exceed the new Minimum Standards for a General Hospital based upon accepted American and European quality standards for hospitals.
The Neurosurgery Department is an active academic entity involved in the teaching of medical students and residents in association with the Bethel Medical College. Each day all patients on the neurosurgery service are seen by both senior neurosurgeons and other members of the medical staff. This academic type of practice were cases are reviewed and discussed differs from that of a conventional private setting common in most private hospitals and is based upon the academic practices associated with the highest medical standards in American and European teaching centers.
The Chief of Neurosurgery, Dr. Tony and his associate, Dr. Choe , reached the highest level of neurosurgical training in the United States and North Korea respectively. Both have traveled extensively around the world gaining further experience and remain active in training medical professionals. They have brought noval procedures to Ethiopia including new techniques in brain and spinal surgery such as transsphenoidal surgery for pituitary tumors, advanced spinal surgery, microvascular decompression for trigeminal neuralgia, modern neurosurgical intensive care medicine, and neurovascular surgery.
This year, the African Neuroscience Institute at Bethel, was formed as a part of the continuing commitment of the Bethel Teaching and General Hospital and the neurosurgical staff at Bethel to continue to grow and develop a neurosurgical practice for improving the health of Ethiopians as well as our many patients from surrounding countries such as Djibouti and Somalia. Although we maintain a high level of care we try to do it at a reasonable cost often lower than those of other private hospitals. Additionally, it is important to point out that Bethel continuously reinvests its proceeds towards improving our staffing, equipment, infrastructure, and educational mission as a priority.
We hope that if your family is faced with a trying decision over what to do for a loved one suffering from a brain or spinal condition you will seek our advice and that together we may help you come to the right decision.