To protect your head and spine, neurosurgeon Dr Eng Hongseng recommends that young people always wear a helmet whenever they drive or ride on a motorcycle, take it easy behind the wheel, and have regular health checkups to screen for diseases. Remember: Traffic accidents are the most common reason people require neurosurgery in Cambodia, so drive cautiously.
YT: Can you define the terms neurosurgery and neurology?
Dr Hongseng: The term “neurosurgery” combines the words “neurology” and “surgery.” Neurology itself is a branch of medicine that focuses on a part of the nervous system encompassing the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves, and extra-cranial cerebrovascular system.
YT: Why do people need neurosurgery?
Dr Hongseng: There are many conditions that can require treatment with neurosurgery, but I would like to concentrate on the following three main factors:
The first is traffic accidents. When people’s heads strike the ground [or another object], there can be internal bleeding. This can lead to intracranial thrombosis [a blood clot in a vein or blood vessel inside the skull]. This causes pressure to build up. In such cases, neurosurgery is required to remove the clot and relieve the pressure. Without surgery, the patient could die.
The second main condition requiring surgery is a stroke. High blood pressure can cause blood vessels in the brain to break open, resulting in a haemorrhage. So a doctor must operate to remove blood clots and relieve the pressure.
The third is spinal cord injuries. Accidents involving the backbone can result in compression of the spinal cord. In such situations, time is important: Neurosurgery must be performed as soon as possible. Otherwise, these injuries can leave the patient permanently disabled.
Another serious problem is a brain tumour. The most common symptoms are headache, dizziness and vomiting. A scan, like a CT or MRI scan, can be used to check for a tumor. Tumours cause pressure within the brain and should be removed through surgery. If a tumour causes damage to one side of the brain, it usually affects only one side of the body. The left part of the brain controls the right side of the body, and vice versa.
YT: What age range are most of your patients in?
Dr Hongseng: Traffic accidents happen to people of all ages, while strokes tend to affect people in their 60s or older. Some stroke patients don’t take their medicine regularly, worsening their conditions. Brain tumours mostly occur in patients aged from 20 to 60.
YT: Of the conditions you have described, which are the most common?
Dr Hongseng: In Cambodia, the most common reason for neurosurgery is to treat injuries related to traffic accidents. The second is stroke. Technological limitations here make it hard to estimate the number of people who develop brain tumours.
YT: What are the best ways to avoid the need for neurosurgery?
Dr Hongseng: I recommended young people wear helmets and drive carefully in order to prevent head and spinal injuries. Also, people should regularly check their health to monitor for diabetes, cholesterol and blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, always follow your doctor’s advice.