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Needles removed from man's brain after 29 years
Updated: 2004-03-05 15:11

Doctors in south China's Guangdong Province have removed three sewing needles that had been embedded in a young man's brain for nearly 29 years.

The patient, surnamed Guo, was from Qingyuan city, said ZhangZhiqiang, one of the neurosurgeons with the 999 Hospital for BrainDiseases who "fished" the needles out of Guo's brain using a brand new navigation system, including a microscope and a magnet. Guo has remained normal since the operation, conducted Wednesday, and showed no symptoms of nervous system dysfunction, said Zhang.

He was transferred from the intensive care unit to an ordinary sickroom Thursday.

"The patient came to our out-patients department on Feb. 23, and asked me to remove three needles from his brain," Zhang recalled.

Guo could not tell when or how the needles had got into his brain, nor could his parents. "But an X-ray he took in 1994 for abrain injury showed they were there," said Zhang. Guo had traveled to several cities seeking medical help overthe past ten years, but no one dared operate. "They simply toldhim it was too risky, and he should just ignore them if they werenot making him too uncomfortable," Zhang said.

But Guo said he had been restless ever since he learned the fact. "I was about to enter college that year and was a top student, but I worried so much about the needles that my grades dropped rapidly, and I ended up attending a junior college,instead of one of the top universities I'd always dreamed of." Desperate to get rid of the needles, Guo, at 29, sought help fromthe Guangzhou-based brain disease hospital and was soon hospitalized.

"Two of the needles were four centimeters long and the third was three centimeters," said Zhang. "We could see from the X-ray and the computerized tomography that they were stuck deep insidethe brain tissue, at least two centimeters underneath the skull."He said a needle that had stuck in a major blood vessel made the operation extremely difficult. "It could have caused ahemorrhage and even endangered the patient's life, so we broke theneedle in half before taking it out."

The operation took two and a half hours, he said.Zhang said the needles must have been intentionally stuck intothe patient's brain through the open fontanel when he was still ababy. "It's not possible for a needle to penetrate the skullotherwise, because the skull is extremely hard."

But he said the patient was lucky enough to have escaped potential hemorrhage and infection inside the brain, as well asserious nervous system dysfunction such as epilepsy.

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