Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s third cervical spine surgery was successful, but it is going to take a while before she can return to her duties as a Pampanga representative, according to her doctors.
“The surgery went well. We were able to do what we set out to do, no complications,” said Dr. Mario Ver, the orthopedic surgeon in Arroyo’s team of doctors at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig.
“We’re very happy with the procedure. Everything happened as planned, no problem was encountered. We’re very happy with the outcome of the surgery,” he said.
According to Ver, the surgery involved the reconstruction of the anterior part of Arroyo’s cervical spine using a titanium mesh cage with a bone graft that was harvested from her pelvic bone.
“The titanium mesh cage filled with bone graft was inserted as a strut (tukod) anteriorly in her cervical vertebrae and was stabilized further with kick plates,” he explained.
Bone growth from the mesh would fuse the vertebrae in Arroyo’s cervical spine, allowing the doctors to remove the halo vest that is attached to her neck and head.
The halo vest is to ensure that Arroyo’s cervical spine is immobilized to help speed up the growth of bones in the damaged area, the doctor explained.
“We will monitor bone growth which could take weeks,” said Ver, who expressed optimism that the damaged parts of Arroyo’s spine will be repaired after Wednesday’s surgery, her third in less than a month.
Once the bone graft fuses with Arroyo’s damaged cervical spine, Ver said the former president will have to undergo a minor surgery again to remove the halo vest.
“Although wearing it is really uncomfortable, the halo vest is a must right now,” he said.
Arroyo went through a third operation on Wednesday after doctors discovered that the titanium implant previously placed on her spine had been dislodged because of “inherent bone problem.”
Arroyo’s first surgery was done on July 29 at the same hospital during which titanium implants and bone substitute were used to rebuild her spine.
She had to undergo a “revision” surgery on Aug. 10 after it was found that the implants connecting four levels of Arroyo’s spine had been dislodged by what they initially thought was an infection.
Poor bone quality
The doctors later said the problem was traced to Arroyo’s poor bone quality caused by hypoparathyroidism, an endocrine disorder in which the parathyroid glands in the neck do not produce enough the parathyroid hormone (PTH) that helps control calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D levels in the blood and bone.
Dr. Juliet Gopez-Cervantes, Arroyo’s main attending physician, also said that Arroyo’s “genetic make-up is very rare.”
The third operation was initially scheduled for last Tuesday but Arroyo developed a fever.
The doctors decided to push through with the operation on Wednesday after Arroyo’s fever went down, said Marilen Lagniton, St. Luke’s vice president for customer affairs.
Cervantes said the former leader was back in the coronary care unit “not because she’s in a critical condition.”
“We just want to closely monitor her recovery until she can be transferred to a regular room. We want to control the environment [with] no visitors allowed yet because we want her to rest further so we will be able to have [a] better result,” she said.