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Rep. Giffords to Get Skull Patch in Latest Step in Recovery
Date:5/18/2011

erfectly, said Dr. Ricky Madhok, a neurosurgeon at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., and Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, N.Y. It is meant to protect the brain and give her head a natural appearance, he noted.

"To replace the part of the skull, certain types of plastic can be used to recreate the skull," explained Madhok, who is not involved in Giffords' surgery. "Keep in mind, the purpose of the skull is to provide a protective barrier to the brain, whether that is done by bone or by a specially designed plastic."

The technology for these replacement implants is now very advanced, he added. "One of the biggest things to be developed in this area is custom designed implants," Madhok said. "As such, using finely cut CT scans, each implant can be made to fit and recreate the skull in such a way that the overall fit is as if the original bone itself was replaced."

"Within a week, you get a ready-made prosthetic that exactly matches the defect," Cohen added.

Surgeons will attach the plate to the skull with titanium brackets, then draw the scalp over the plate, Cohen said. The implant will be concealed and hair will grow over it.

"As soon as you close the scalp, the patient looks symmetrical again. The cosmetic result is very striking right from the get-go," he said. "They look like themselves again right away."

Cohen said the risks of the surgery are minimal compared to what Giffords has already been through. "You are not really doing any brain surgery at this point," he said. "It's a fast procedure, usually taking under an hour," he added.

Madhok agreed. "Restoring the part of the skull that was removed is routine if patients have a good outcome to replace the defect. While this procedure is still considered brain surgery, there are much less risks than with the initial operation," he said.

Recovery from the procedure takes one or two days, the AP said.

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