60 seconds with Arun Ranganathan | #TeamBartsHealth blogs

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60 seconds with Arun Ranganathan

For Operation Live, Arun Ranganathan and the team will be changing yet another life by operating on the spine.

Arun Ranganathan started the scoliosis service at The Royal London Hospital in 2012, training staff and lobbying for support. With medical professionals and community support he undertook the team’s first operation in 2013. Now the service is fully operational with roughly 60 life changing surgeries taking place each year. 

What is scoliosis?

There are four types of scoliosis; Adolescent Idiopathic Scoliosis, Neuromuscular Scoliosis, Congenital Scoliosis and Degenerative Scoliosis. Simply though scoliosis is the curvature of the spine.

Why did you want to become a surgeon specialising in scoliosis?

It is a difficult operation but one that is truly life changing. For me it is extremely special to assist a child who is suffering and been able to change their life for the better. I believe this is my service to the community.

How common is scoliosis? 

4 out of 100 people have scoliosis with it being more common in women.

Why do some people need treatment?

The reason behind treatment is not to correct the curve but to stop it from progressing. The younger the age of diagnosis the greater the risk of progression, as typically scoliosis progresses during the adolescent growth spurt.

I’ve heard a lot of parents say that they didn’t notice a curve in their child’s spine last summer but during just a few months of their child’s growth spurt the curve has presented itself.

Why did you choose to specialise in this area?   

I chose this speciality as there was and still is a need for scoliosis surgeons. This is a difficult surgery to undertake, so the sense of accomplishment after 8 hours operating is extremely rewarding. However, it’s when I see my patients again and see how happy they are that it truly hits home why I do this.  

Why do people develop scoliosis?

There are a lot of theories as to why people develop scoliosis; hormone theory, genetic theory, and gene theory etc. However none of these have been proven. There is still a lot of research to be done in this field.

Is there anything you can do to prevent yourself developing scoliosis? 

Some doctors are advocates of bracing if the curve is between 20-25 degrees, this is because you can monitor the curve during a child’s growth spurt. However, this depends on each case and the surgeons preference on whether a brace will be a benefit to the individual.

What is the impact of having scoliosis? 

Primarily it is cosmetic but this can heavily impact on a child’s development with them becoming shy and withdrawn due to their appearance. All the children we know with scoliosis are regular kids who want to run and play with their friends.  Additionally scoliosis can cause reduced lung capacity due to one side becoming trapped, along with increased risk of developing arthritis, due to the curvature creating a heavier load of weight on one side of the body. 

Will I definitely need surgery? 

No, however if your spine curves more than 50 degrees your doctor will discuss surgery with you. This is because studies have shown that with a 50 degree curve the spine will continue to worsen.

What’s the pathway for treatment? 

You would visit your GP with your concerns ( visible curve, pain etc.) who will then look at your spine and refer you to a specialist if need be. It’s important for parents to watch the spine as their child develops, as the operation is a lot easier to perform if we act sooner rather then later.

What is the recovery time after surgery? 

Recovery is relatively quick with it being one week, most children return to school within 6 weeks of recovery.

What’s your favourite memory from your time at Barts Health?

I received wonderful feedback from my patients that makes me step back and remember that this surgery is life changing. Out of all the people I’ve operated on 6 patients are now studying medicine and want to give back to their communities.

How important is your team during this procedure? 

They are vital to the procedure. This is a difficult surgery where everyone including scrub nurses and anaesthetist have had to undertake specialised training. This surgery is high risk so everyone needs to be on their game.



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