Dubai: A baby born with congenital deformities in the lower limbs, that would have meant certain amputation, is actually able to walk, run and play football, following a series of complex transformative surgeries that were conducted by a pioneering Dubai-based orthopaedic and trauma surgeon within a span of three years.
Professor Dr Michael Weber, world-renowned orthopaedic and trauma surgeon with Adam Vital Hospital, Dubai, has been credited with pioneering techniques for limb lengthening with the use of external fixators, reconstruction and transplants.
Born with unformed lower limbs
While the birth of Baby Mehmet Salih Demirrezen on November 31, 2017, was a cause of delight to Adam Demirrezen and his wife, they were dismayed to see his lower unformed legs. Doctors in Turkey said it was Salih had Tibial Hemimelia in both the limbs, which is a congenital deformity that is said to happen one in a million live births. The prognosis was grim: Limb amputation, one at the thigh and one below the knee.
Refusing to give up, the parents did their online research and found Dr Weber, a renowned German orthopaedic surgeon at the Adam Vital Hospital, Dubai. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Weber flew to Turkey to examine the child and planned a series of complicated surgical procedures to save the baby’s limbs.
Averting limb amputation
The case was challenging, as the parents did not understand a word of English or Arabic and required translation into Turkish. Initially, they could not travel with the infant to Dubai, but Dr Weber understood their pain and organised the surgeries in such a manner that the child faced no inconvenience at all.
Speaking to Gulf News, Dr Weber said: “I started working on Baby Mehmet from May 2018 when he was barely six months old.” Dr weber, who has pioneered some of the surgeries on limb lengthening — especially in TH cases — has also created a detailed Weber Classification chart to understand the extent and type of limb deformities that can happen in different kinds of cases of Tibial Hemimelia. He continued: “The baby had Type IIB TH in right leg as per my classification, and Type VII-B TH in left leg, which also had a missing patella (knee cap).”
Baby Mehmet can walk, run and play now
In a series of five transformative surgeries, step by step, Dr Weber reconstructed the missing parts of the child’s lower limbs. The step included use of the fibula (calf bone) bone in reconstruction, homologous tendon transplant, use of cartilage to reconstruct the patella and lengthening of the limbs using external fixators. In the last three years, Dr Weber meticulously planned his surgeries, with the last one conducted on August 24, 2021, in Dubai. The result was amazing. Not only has the child’s limbs been saved from amputation, but Baby Mehmet is now taller at three years of age. He can stand independently, can walk, run and play football — much to the delight of his family.
A few more procedures required
Dr Weber explained: “Mehmet will require further limb lengthening procedures over a period of a few years. However, it is heartening to see him so independent and playing with all the children. His knee and leg functions have been stabilised,” said Dr Weber, who has conducted more than 300 similar surgeries worldwide and saved the limbs of little children who were faced with almost certain amputation.
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What is Tibial Hemimelia?
Tibial Hemimelia is a congenital condition said to affect one in a million children, where a child is born with a very short tibia (shinbone) or a completely missing tibia, resulting in a disbalance owing to the difference in the length of the lower limbs.
In such cases, doctors usually suggest amputation of the shorter or missing tibia limb to be able to facilitate movement with an artificial limb.