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Surgeons reattach decapitated child’s head

Ambulance (Dreamstime/TNS)
July 14, 2023

Surgeons in Jerusalem successfully reattached a young boys decapitated head in an extremely complex operation after the 12-year-old was hit by a car while on his bike.

According to Hadassah Medical Center, Palestinian Suleiman Hassan suffered serious injuries in the accident, including damaged ligaments that left his skull detached from the top vertebrae of his spine.

The rare injury is known as bilateral atlanto-occipital dislocation and is commonly referred to as internal or orthopedic decapitation.

“We fought for the boy’s life,” said Dr. Ohad Einav, an orthopedic specialist, according to The Times of Israel.

Einav and Dr. Ziv Asa operated on Hassan in early June.

“The procedure itself is very complicated and took several hours. While in the operating room, we used new plates and fixations in the damaged area… Our ability to save the child was thanks to our knowledge and the most innovative technology in the operating room,” Einav said.

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Doctors plan to continue carefully monitoring Hassan, who was discharged from the hospital with a cervical splint.  

“The fact that such a child has no neurological deficits or sensory or motor dysfunction, and that he is functioning normally and walking without an aid after such a long process, is no small thing,” Einav said. “The injury is extremely rare, but we do know that because children between ages four and 10 have heads that are large in relation to their bodies, they are more susceptible than adults.”

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia reported in 2003 that just 16 patients suffered from the rare injury between 1983 and 2003.

The survival rate is low, with most occurrences resulting in death.

Hassan’s dad remained at his side for the duration of his hospital stay, the facility said.

“I will thank you all my life for saving my dear only son. Bless you all. Thanks to you he regained his life even when the odds were low and the danger was obvious. What saved him were professionalism, technology and quick decision-making by the trauma and orthopedics team. All I can say is a big thank you,” Hassan’s dad said.