When Bhoomi Manjunatha was born with cerebral palsy, doctors warned she would probably never walk independently.
Now five years old, the little girl from Ohio has relied on a walker or a wheelchair to move around.
But surgeons at the state’s top-ranked Nationwide Children’s Hospital saw things differently, and said had devised an operation that could help Bhoomi walk.
She underwent the rare and complex procedure on her spine in November, followed by intense physical therapy.
Six months later, she is learning to stand on her own two feet, walking with nothing but a pair of light crutches.
Experts believe that, with continued physical therapy, Bhoomi will never have to use a wheelchair again.
Bhoomi was born with cerebral palsy and spasticity, a condition in which certain muscles are continuously contracted.
Spasticity affects more than 12 million people worldwide, including 80 percent of people with cerebral palsy.
The disorders had confined Bhoomi to a wheelchair, with the occasional use of a walker.
When doctors at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, in Columbus, Ohio, heard the story, they told her parents they could help her with a procedure performed by only a few surgeons in the world.
The surgery is known as selective dorsal rhizotomy and is performed on the lower spinal cord.
Spinal cord nerves are separated, then identified via an electrical stimulation.
Following identification, certain sensory nerve fibers in the spinal cord are cut.
The nerves that lead to too much muscle tone, which is a condition of cerebral palsy and spasticity, are then cut.
In November, the surgical team determined which rootlets were abnormal and divided about 60 percent of the stimulation to prevent the tightening and stiffness that Bhoomi experienced.
‘The surgery went well, but the parents sort of look at me funny when I say, “My part is actually kind of easy”,’ said Dr Jeffrey Leonard, who led the surgery.
‘The child has over six months of hard work in their physical therapy.’
Bhoomi has been undergoing months of inpatient rehabilitation, outpatient physical therapy and occupational therapy to strengthen her muscles so she can take advantage of her newfound mobility.
‘She was so excited about this surgery thinking it is going to be a magical cut and she’ll be all good, but it took a lot of effort from her to get where she is today,’ her mother, Sushma, said.
In the four months since the surgery, doctors say Bhoomi is continuing to progress. She is out of her wheelchair and now using crutches to help her move around.
|What has followed for Bhoomi is four months of inpatient rehabilitation, outpatient physical therapy and occupational therapy to strengthen her muscles so she can take advantage of her newfound mobility|
The next step is for Bhoomi to straighten out her legs so that she can support her upper muscles.
Dr Leonard predicts her posture will improve and that she will require less orthopedic procedures in the future.
‘Bhoomi is bright and energetic, you can see that from her smile,’ he added.
‘She is motivated and did everything that the therapist asked of her, working really hard in rehabilitation.
‘I think she is going to be dramatically effected in a very positive manner after having undergone the rhizotomy.’