Ghana benefits from latest 3D technology training for Neurosurgery

Accra, Sept. 09, GNA - Ghanaian Neurosurgeons have been introduced to the UpSurgeOn Academy’s training platform, that aims to improve the traditional approach to neurosurgery education through the use of 3-Diamentional (3D) technologies applied to surgical simulation.

The latest global training technology breaks down the challenges of surgery into various brain boxes, which were 3D printed images of real-time brain, showing real-time situations and pathologies in the brain.

It also comes with a software that is downloaded on a mobile phone or tablet to enable the learner to scan any part of the brain, and also freely interact with the models through a combination of virtual reality and these actual simulated brain boxes giving surgeons the experience of a surgery.

It is however important for people to note that there is a slight difference between a Neurosurgeon and Neurologists even though they are both specialized doctors in the treatment of medical problems affecting the central nervous system, which controls most of the functions of the body and mind consisting of the brain and spinal cord.

While Neurosurgeons focus on the surgical aspect of treatment and often serve as consultants to other health specialists due to their high practical knowledge and skills with the human nervous system, the Neurologist uses alternative forms to treat patients with diseases and conditions such as headaches, Alzheimer’s disease, sleeping disorders, pain, and brain tumours.

It is therefore very important to always know the difference between physicians when trying to get diagnosed for a particular medical condition.

Dr Teddy Totimeh, a Neurosurgeon at the University of Ghana Medical Centre (UGMC), where the training is being hosted, told the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in Accra, that the technology was revolutionary, as it will stand in for the use of cadavers (dead bodies), that were traditionally used for practical learning in medical schools.

He explained that the use of dead bodies for practical training had some challenges and limitations because, there were no opportunities for creating different scenarios or environment for learners to practice with, meaning that everything was dependent on chance until the surgeon got into the theatre to transport the knowledge and skills acquired on a life patient, and that, was where confidence was slowly built in dealing with the different kinds of cases that were presented.

Dr Totimeh said the advantages of these latest 3D technologies includes the fact that through these simulations, the learner was able to create several and repeated scenarios using the standard operating equipment used in the theatre for surgeries for their practice to acquire the desired experience and ability to perform a particular kind of surgery.

“The advantage here is that it ensures a risk-free environment as no one’s safety is being compromised, and it is done in a relaxed situation, where trainees can gain much experience because they can practice over and over again,” he added.

Dr Totimeh, said the maiden training in Ghana had five Neurosurgeon residents as learners, in addition to Neuro Consultants who will want to deepen their skills and expose themselves to all kinds of surgeries that were not traditionally done in the country, and the processes will also be shown live on the UGMC Facebook page for the benefit of others including the Community of Neurosurgeon in West Africa to also watch.

Dr Abass Adam, the President of the Ghana Academy of Neurosurgeon (GNAS), said Ghana was very fortunate to be selected by the UpSurgeOn Academy as part of their location to showcase this technology, and also for the global training programme to stimulate learning.

He said this technology provided a very short while for Surgeons to gain a lot of skills than they would have otherwise used several years to attain, and suggested that it was a good opportunity for Ghana to urgently acquire these brain boxes rather than returning them after the training.

“For the past two weeks that we have been working together on these brain boxes, I don’t think we have to return the boxes. This is something revolutionary for the turnout in training of neurosurgeons in Ghana if we are able to acquire this facility,” he said.

Dr Adam said the training involves three stages made up of the knowledge and skills in using the software, and the brain boxes, then the hybrid stage where the two had to be blended to perform surgery by getting to the pathology or the cause and effect of the disease in any part of the brain like in real-time situations.

He said both young and old Neurosurgeons could learn a lot of skills and apply to various disease situations such as aneurysm.

Aneurysm is a medical condition that causes the ballooning and weakening of areas of an artery either in the brain, back of the knee or intestine among others, and studies shows that their treatment varies from watchful waiting to emergency surgery.

Dr Agyen Mensah, a Neurosurgeon and the Treasurer of GANS, said although he had special interest in neuro vascular surgery, Ghana at the moment lacked capacity on this area, with no particular health facility equipped enough to treat patients with pathologies such as aneurysm.

He said aneurysm could cause a rapture in the brain leading to a stroke, or intestinal bleeding, and both could be fatal with the present lack of knowledge and care, stressing that a large number of patients in Ghana died almost immediately after complaining of severe head or stomach aches.

“We started putting some surveys together and noticed that averagely nationwide, not less than 20 cases of aneurysm are recorded in a month,” and this could be catastrophic as a lot of people may suffer from the condition but may not have any knowledge or seek for medical care, he said.

Dr Mensah cautioned that the condition could happen to anyone irrespective of their social or economic circumstances without warning, and this can be a disaster for a country like Ghana not having any particular treatment centre for these kinds of diseases, and that was why GANS deemed it crucial for the acquisition of these brain boxes for the enhancement of the expertise of neurosurgeons, for improved healthcare delivery.

The Universal Health Coverage (UHC) 2030, underscores the contributions of all health care professionals in the run-up to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), therefore to accelerate progress, there must be an increase of domestic resources for public financing in health in the most equitable and sustainable ways.

In the Abuja Declaration signed by Heads of States of African Union counties in 2001, they pledged to allocate at least 15 per cent of annual budgets to improve the health sector, but government’s health sector spending still remains a challenge.

Further studies show that the weaknesses in the health systems have been made manifested with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has crippled many and continue to threaten even the seemingly strong systems of worthy nations globally.

At the heart of the UHC is equity, therefore all roadmaps towards achieving the 2030 targets must include the most vulnerable people who struggle to get access even to the basic services, and would be pushed further into poverty in trying to meet a basic need.