NEW DELHI – A 15-month-old Indian girl whose head has swollen to nearly double its normal size is “doing well,” a doctor said Friday, but treatment could be complicated by the extreme nature of her case.
Roona Begum, who suffers from hydrocephalus, a rare disorder that causes fluid to build up on the brain, was discovered earlier this month living with her parents, who are too poor to pay for life-saving treatment.
The publication of pictures taken by a photographer in remote Tripura state in northeast India last week saw a top hospital in Delhi offer to examine the child and led well-wishers abroad to set up an online donation fund for her.
Roona’s condition has resulted in her head swelling to a circumference of 94 cm , putting pressure on her brain and making it impossible for her to sit upright or crawl.
Her doctor, leading Indian neurosurgeon Sandeep Vaishya, who heads neurosurgery at the flagship hospital run by the private Fortis Healthcare group near New Delhi, said, “the child is doing well so far.”
But he added: “Her case is very complex, so we are currently considering options of how best to proceed.”
The most common treatment involves the surgical insertion of a mechanism known as a shunt, which drains cerebrospinal fluid out of the brain and toward another part of the body where it can be absorbed easily into the bloodstream.
In Roona’s case, however, the huge size of her head relative to the rest of her body complicates matters, according to Vaishya.
“Her head is several times larger than her abdomen, so we have to consider how that much fluid will be absorbed by her body if we put in a shunt,” Vaishya said.
“I am also worried because she has developed a skin condition on the base of her head, suggesting that her scalp is quite delicate, so a shunt could pierce through and leak fluid through the skin, causing other problems,” he added.