MERRILLVILLE | After her surgeon broke her spine in four places as part of an eight-hour surgery to fix her scoliosis, Kayla Akujobi gained 2 inches in height.
Since the Aug. 5 surgery, Kayla's mother, Karen Akujobi, said her daughter, 14, of Merrillville, is nervous to move too much but has been making herself do so, taking trips to the mall and the tennis court, working toward her goal of playing softball with her now-straightened spine.
While Dr. Elian Shepherd, medical director of the Spine Care Center and Kayla's surgeon, has done countless surgeries to correct scoliosis, hers was the first using the Stryker Navigation System at Methodist Hospitals.
The hospital has a mobile unit, but it is developing a suite for neurological, spinal and orthopedic surgeries at its Southlake campus in Merrillville. The system uses infrared cameras and tracking software to help surgeons navigate the body to the exact area that needs treatment. A representative for Stryker calls the system "a GPS" for surgeons.
Once completed, Methodist will be the first to create such a suite with Stryker equipment in the Chicago area, the hospital said.
"Methodist Hospitals' investment in the Multi Specialty Navigational Operating Room Suite supports our vision of being a leader in delivering specialty care, becoming an academic teaching institution, and providing unprecedented health care in Northwest Indiana," Methodist CEO Ian McFadden said in a statement. "With this new technology, members of our community will no longer need to travel out of the area to receive cutting-edge treatment for neurosurgery, spine, and orthopeadics."
This investment cost about $1.4 million, McFadden said.
Shepherd, who has worked on scoliosis patients for a long time without the navigational system, said in addition to helping surgeons with accuracy, the system allows for substantially less radiation exposure as well, protecting the patient and the staff.
The surgeon said he was pleased the hospital decided to create the suite after the system was brought to the board's attention.
"It's good they take such technology seriously, especially when they see the results," Shepherd said. "Improving the service (is an) advantage to the patients."
Laurel Valentino, director of the Neuroscience Institute/Cardiology Service at Methodist Hospitals, said the complete suite is scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.
Rami Musleh, a physician's assistant with the Neurological and Spinal Surgery practice, said with neurological surgery, the accuracy available with the navigation system helps make the surgery quicker. He points out it's quicker to make and close a small incision using the system, rather than making a large incision otherwise.
"I have to emphasize the safety aspect is tremendous," he said. "It won't let you operate on the wrong side."
Kayla's mother had been prepared to travel to Chicago for treatment for her daughter, but after her daughter bonded with Shepherd, they decided to stay in Northwest Indiana for the surgery; the new navigation equipment was a happy bonus.
"She's doing good," Karen Akujobi said. "And her body's straight now."