Materia Medica Malaysiana

August 8, 2007

200,000 silent spine disease sufferers

Filed under: Uncategorized — malaysianmedicine @ 9:19 am

NST: KUALA LUMPUR: Often called the neglected disease, scoliosis affects more than 200,000 Malay-sians.
It’s a condition which causes the spine to curve to the left or right, making it resemble an S or C. Some 80 per cent of sufferers are female. Untreated, scoliosis may lead to permanent damage of the spine and disability.
“Early diagnosis and treatment helps to prevent curve progression and deformity,” said Hospital Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (HUKM) director Professor Datuk Dr Mohamed Abdul Razak.
“Children with scoliosis can lead normal lives and have the same lifespan as other healthy people,” said the orthopaedic surgeon who specialises in spinal surgery at a press conference yesterday.
He said scoliosis patients have difficulty walking and doing normal daily activities. They also suffer psychologically because of low self-esteem and embarrassment brought on by the deformity.
Treating scoliosis used to be a costly affair. Dr Mohamed said the implants alone — be it a screw, clip, rod or plate — could cost up to RM40,000. This excluded the cost of surgery and hospitalisation.
“A major problem we faced was the cost of the foreign-made implants. People couldn’t afford them even if we waived surgery fees.”
Fortunately, Dr Mohamed revealed that locally made implants were now available. HUKM has roped in a local medical technology company called Delphax to design and manufacture implants for scoliosis surgery.
The implants are made of titanium steel and are said to be just as good as the imported ones. But they only cost RM15,000.
“The local implant is also customised to suit the smaller Asian build, compared with the ones from America.”
Dr Mohamed who came up with the idea for establishing Yayasan Scoliosis Malaysia (Yasim) said the non-governmental organisation aimed to educate Malaysians about scoliosis — its effects and how it could be treated.
“We want to teach teachers and nurses to be able to detect scoliosis in children,” he added.
Yasim, which will be officially launched next month, will help patients who need financial and/or emotional assistance.
There will also be a Scoliosis Awareness Week and leaflets on the disease will be distributed nationwide.
Delphax donated RM100,000 worth of implants last year to HUKM, enabling eight operations to be carried out.
Delphax managing director Azman Jufri said the implant, which functions as a supporting structure for the spine, could also be used for people suffering from backaches and other spine-related problems.
“We are currently working on getting approval from the US Food and Drug Administration,” said Azman.

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