News and Updates

Craniofacial surgery mission to Vietnam

The Emirates Airline Foundation partnered with UK-based Facing the World on a mission to provide life changing surgery to children suffering from severe facial deformities in Vietnam. Facing the World was founded in 2002 by craniofacial surgeons Martin Kelly and Norman Waterhouse having recognised that children born with complex conditions in developing countries often had little hope and faced being shunned by their communities.

Craniofacial surgery mission to VietnamCraniofacial surgery mission to Vietnam

Over recent years Facing the World has worked with Danang General Hospital in Vietnam to conduct training missions to develop the skills of local staff. Vietnam suffers from one of the highest rates of facial deformity in the world. There are also significant levels of head and facial trauma caused by road traffic accidents and some specific conditions such as encephalocele are more common within South East Asia.

This year’s Facing the World mission ran for two weeks, and saw a team of 21 medical professionals travel to Vietnam. This was the most ambitious mission the charity has ever undertaken.

Craniofacial surgery mission to VietnamCraniofacial surgery mission to Vietnam

The 2014 medical mission saw over 60 patients screened, and 24 surgeries conducted. The patients are treated jointly by UK and Vietnamese surgeons to allow knowledge sharing and this year specific areas of training including cranioplasty to repair skull deformities, the use of tissue expanders, debulking of facial tumors, fat transfer and complex cleft repair. All patients recovered well from their surgery and we will be kept updated on their progress by our Vietnamese colleagues before the Facing the World team returns for their 2015 mission.

This year, the team also worked with Danang General Hospital to deliver Vietnam’s first ever craniofacial conference. In total, 150 medical personnel attended the two-day conference which was opened by the UK Ambassador to Vietnam, Ambassador Antony Stokes. The conference was a fantastic success and has triggered requests for support from hospitals in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Craniofacial surgery mission to VietnamCraniofacial surgery mission to Vietnam

The team also launched three new projects to greatly improve the level of care in Vietnam for those suffering from craniofacial conditions:

3D Printing and facial prosthetics

Craniofacial surgery mission to VietnamCraniofacial surgery mission to Vietnam

3D printing is a technique which is increasingly being applied in the medical field. In relation to craniofacial surgery it is being used to make exact models of the relevant areas patients skulls which can then be used as a diagnostic tool or to make implants that fit exactly in the area where required. The benefit is that this approach is quick, cost effective and the patient has to go through fewer procedures and there is less chance of infection.

The charity was fortunate enough to receive a donation of a 3D printer and the software to turn high resolution scans into a 3D model that can be printed. The team identified a local engineer who possessed the skills to operate the equipment and provided training to ensure progress is made in this area.

The machine proved particularly useful when the medical mission presented with a patient who had lost a quarter of his skull in an accident. The team were able to use the printer to build a replica of his existing skull and then use this model to build a titanium skull plate to the exact dimensions required, making surgery possible.

Orthognathic Surgery

Another project initiated this year in Danang was a programme of training in orthognathic surgery. Orthognathic surgery relates to the alignment of the jaw and face and is recognised as one of the corner stones of a high-functioning craniofacial unit.

The orthognathic programme in Danang hopes to train surgeons, orthodontists and maxillofacial technicians to work together to deliver a high-quality orthognathic surgery programme - one of the first of its kind in Vietnam.

During the mission the team reviewed 14 patients who were all experiencing severe problems with their jaw alignment. The team trained local orthodontists how to assess these issues and recommended stages of treatment.

Pre and post-operative Nursing

Craniofacial surgery mission to Vietnam

Often, little information is provided to patients about their surgical procedures before they happen, which means it can be a traumatic experience, especially for children. Similarly there is limited access to pain relief following surgery which again can cause distress.

Training was conducted for local nursing staff in Vietnam about ways in which to prepare children for their operations and explain what was likely to happen. In addition, the training covered with alternative methods of pain management, which don’t require expensive drugs or medicine. This was a pilot project designed to improve the patient’s experience of craniofacial surgery.

“We are incredibly grateful to the Emirates Airline Foundation who gave us wonderful support and allowed us to make this year’s annual medical mission the most successful ever. As a small charity, funding is always difficult and limits the number of skilled medical staff we can take on our training programme to Vietnam,” said Graham Banton, executive director of Facing the World.

“With your help, Danang General Hospital will soon be capable of providing outstanding craniofacial healthcare and we believe this will raise the level throughout Vietnam and the whole region,” he added.

The team looks forward to their next mission in 2015. If you would like to help support future missions, you can donate your Skywards Miles to the Emirates Airline Foundation.

Skywards Miles donations are used to allocate tickets to doctors and volunteer professionals travelling on humanitarian missions around the world. To learn more about how to donate, log in to your Emirates Skywards account.

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