Frontoethmoidal meningoencephalocele: appraisal of a craniofacial surgical teaching program in Cambodia


Journal of Neurosurgery: Pediatrics, Ahead of Print.
OBJECTIVEThe treatment of frontoethmoidal meningoencephaloceles (fMECs) in Cambodia was not possible before the development of a program that taught some Khmer surgeons (working at the Children’s Surgical Centre in Phnom Penh) how to surgically correct these deformities without any foreign help. The results of that teaching program are discussed in this paper.METHODSBetween 2004 and 2009, both local and visiting foreign neurosurgical and craniofacial surgeons (the visitors coming twice a year) worked together to operate on 200 patients, and a report on those cases was published in 2010. In subsequent years (2010–2016), the Khmer surgeons operated on 100 patients without the presence of the visiting surgeons. In this study, the authors compare the second case series with the previously published series and the literature in terms of results and complications. The operations were performed with limited surgical materials and equipment, using a combined bicoronal and transfacial approach in most cases. Most of the patients came from very poor families.RESULTSOrganizing the postoperative follow-up of these low-income patients (mean age 12 years) was probably the most challenging part of this teaching program. Nine of the patients were lost to surgical follow-up. In the other cases, cosmetic results were judged by the surgeons as worse than the patient’s preoperative appearance in 1 case, poor in 12 cases, average in 27, and good in 51—data that are significantly less encouraging than the results reported by the joint local/visiting teams in 2010 (p = 0.0001). Nevertheless, patients and parents tended to have a better overall opinion about the surgical results (rating the results as good in 84% of the 80 cases in which parent or patient ratings were available). Twenty postoperative complications were observed (the most common being temporary CSF leaks). The rate of immediate postoperative complications directly related to fMEC surgery was less than that in the previous series, but the difference was not statistically significant (20% vs 28.5%, p = 0.58). No death was noted in this case series (in contrast to the previous series). Social questionnaire results confirmed that fMEC correction partially improved the adverse social and educational consequences of fMEC in affected children.CONCLUSIONSIn the current state of this program, the local surgeons are able to correct fMECs in their own country, without foreign assistance, with good results in a majority of patients. Such humanitarian teaching programs generally take years to achieve the initial aims.

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