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Physicians Heal Bridge to Nowhere; Iraqi Girl With Rare Neuromuscular Disorder Has New Hope
Date:11/13/2009

to go to school," El Khoury translated. Her younger brother has now started school in Houston, much to their parents' joy.

Shortly after arriving in Houston, her breathing problems became worse, resulting in the emergency room visit to Children's Memorial Hermann.

An option for the treatment of myasthenia gravis is removal of the thymus gland, which is located behind the sternum in the upper chest. It can take up to two years for the effects of the operation to be fully realized.

"Taking out the thymus gland results in a complete remission in almost half the patients with myasthenia gravis and at least a partial remission in almost 90 percent of patients, so it's worthwhile to remove it," said Larry Kaiser, M.D., thoracic surgeon and president of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.

Typically, the surgery involves a highly invasive procedure of splitting the sternum (the central breast bone) in order to reach the thymus. Kaiser is one of the few surgeons in the world who is an expert at using a less invasive technique called a transcervical thymectomy, which is done through a very small incision in the neck.

"The standard surgery requires four days in the hospital. The operation we do through a small neck incision is far less invasive and I usually send the patient home the same day," said Kaiser, who wrote the chapter on thymectomy in the 2006 book he co-authored, "Mastery of Cardiothoracic Surgery."

"Obviously this situation was a little bit different," Kaiser said of Aram's case. "She came in very weak from the myasthenia. Once she was better controlled medically, we were able to do the operation and one of the advantages is, even in a person like this who is still quite weak, she did not have any setback from her operation."

The outlook, say all her physicians, is bright.

"She had some muscle atrophy and we have to rebuild all the receptors but there's n
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SOURCE University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
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