On Hold

December 13, 2011

Meaghan’s surgery is going to be delayed.  Last week she and Tracy met with Dr. Gurtner (Meg’s neurosurgeon) and evidently it was enough to completely freak Meg out.  Dr. Gurtner, who is nothing if not painfully frank and blunt (which can be a good thing), was explaining to Meg the risks of surgery.  Admittedly, even minor surgery has its risks.  One thing Gurtner offered to do in addition to replacing the missing bone in Meg’s skull was to also fix the area of her skull that had since sunken in a little following her initial surgery.  This sinking has created a funky, albeit not noticeable,  “alligator ridge” along the right side of Meg’s head.  Gurtner said she could fix the ridge by lifting the skull along that line, but explained that it is always possible that Meg’s brain tissue could be damaged in the process leaving her right back where she was after the accident.  Not good.  However, Gurtner assured Meg that if it looked like it was going to be an problem, or that the procedure could possibly further damage her brain, she would not do it.  Meg would just have to live with a funky “alligator” ridge (I told Meg it could be a fun conversation piece at parties or to scare little kids).

Apart from fixing the “alligator” ridge, Gurtner did explain that even replacing the missing bone has risks as the anesthesia could damaged her healing brain, though the odds of that happening are low.  Needless to say, that was enough to put Meg over the edge and she said she wanted to postpone the surgery entirely.  One thing Gurtner didn’t mention is that even when the missing bone is replaced that sometimes the body treats the replaced bone fragment as a foreign object and the bone will eventually have to be replaced with a prosthetic (either ceramic or titanium).  This is why in some cases, like in the case of Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, the removed bone is inserted into the abdominal cavity to keep the bone tissue alive until it’s replaced later on.  In Meg’s case her piece of skull was frozen.

On the plus side, there seems to be some anecdotal evidence (and maybe even scientific evidence, although I couldn’t find any), where the replacement of the missing bone flap actually improved cognitive functions as the normal fluid pressure around the brain is restored.  Gurtner didn’t mention that and instead said that people in other countries often live their entire lives without ever having their bone flap replaced.  Well, that might be good enough for other countries, but in America we don’t allow people to walk around with holes in their heads (or, at least, I hope that’s still true, although I sometimes have my doubts).  Read the rest of this entry »