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Mesa surgeon uses new methods to fix babies’ skulls without transfusions

(Pixabay Photo)

PHOENIX — A surgeon at a Mesa medical center is applying new techniques to a procedure that corrects defects in babies’ skulls, which affect about one in every 2,000 births.

Dr. Robert Wood, a pediatric surgeon at Banner Health Cardon Children’s Hospital, said the new methods greatly reduce the need for blood transfusions.

“Craniosynostosis is where the bones of children’s heads are fused together prematurely, so that causes them to have very abnormal head shapes and inhibits their brain growth,” he told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Friday.

“And we have pioneered techniques to fix that, to do that surgery, without transfusing kids.”

Wood said the changes often reduce the length of the surgery, which is typically performed on 4-to-6-month-old babies, from six hours to one or two.

“We give them medicine before the surgery that boosts their blood count, then during the surgery they get medicine through their vein that stabilizes blood clots so they don’t break down,” he said.

Wood said his team also puts a solution into the infants’ brains that helps prevent bleeding, and they use a special blade that helps to coagulate blood.

The doctor has performed about 3,000 of these surgeries in his career.

He said he started trying these techniques about four years ago and has “proven pretty conclusively that we are successfully doing this.”

“Our gold standard is by the time a child is going to kindergarten, in an average case, they’re not detected by their peers as having had this disease or surgery, and that’s accomplished now fairly routinely,” he said.

“We like to think that we’re erasing this as a defining event in a child’s life.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bob McClay contributed to this report. 

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