By ALLAN BENNER , TRIBUNE STAFF
Posted 1 month ago
Dr. Omar Bengezi has a lot of 'firsts' to his credit since arriving in Welland.
Whether it was a tummy tuck or reattaching a nearly-severed hand, none of those procedures had been done in this city before the plastic surgeon set up his practice in 2004.
'I'm the first plastic surgeon to come to Welland, actually, so every surgery that I did is the first surgery here,' he said with a laugh.
But recently Bengezi added another 'first' to his list of achievements, this time on a national scale. On May 19, he became the first doctor in Canada to use a revolutionary new procedure to treat osteoarthritis of the thumb joint. In doing so, he made a huge difference in the quality of life for his patient, Welland resident Linda Chevalier.
Chevalier has suffered for years with severe osteoarthritis in her right hand at the base of her thumb.
'I couldn't do anything with it. To just touch it was horrible pain,' she recalled while waiting to see Bengezi at his West Main St. office on Friday.
Due to the pain, even enjoying the company of her grandchildren occasionally became an excruciating experience for Chevalier.
'The kids, the little ones, used to give me a high-five and it would put me right on the floor,.'
Painkillers and cortisone injections we no longer helping her control the pain, so Bengezi needed to find another way to help her.
In the past, surgeons have treated severe arthritis in the thumb joint using long, complicated operations that took months of recovery, said Bengezi, a surgeon of 20 years who has specialized in plastic and hand surgery for 13 of
'You see this tendon here?' Bengezi said, gesturing to the large tendon that's clearly visible under the skin in the
rmally, he would have cut two incisions in the wrist to harvest half of the thickness of that tendon for a few inches alo
ng its length. The harvested tendon would then be rolled into a ball and inserted through another large incision at the base of the thumb, replacing tissue that has degenerated due to the arthritis.
The operation also required the removal of part of the bone in the thumb.
For a patient, that operation meant months of pain while both the wrist and hand healed.
Begenzi wanted to offer his patients something better.
He learned about a new implant called a PyroSphere, made by Texas-based Ascension Orthopedics. It's a spherical graphite implant with an outer layer of 'a kind of pure carbon.'
'It's most commonly used for heart valves,' Begenzi said.'
Though surgeons have used the same biocompatible material for repairing joints within the hand for many years, Bengezi said he's the first surgeon in Canada to use the material 'in this shape, in this joint.'
Even in the United States, the use of the implant has yet to become a common procedure.
'It's really new. It was the first time I did this, and the first time anyone in Canada did this. Linda is the first patient, and I did four after her, and they're all OK.'
It's also a much easier procedure than the way surgeons used to do it, and the more operations Bengezi does, the easier it gets. It took him about an hour and a half to operate on Chevalier's hand. Now, he can do the same operation in one hour.
'The good thing about this is it's easy. Any hand surgeon could do this easily. You just cut a little bit here and a little bit of the bone and put in the ball,' he said, gesturing to a fading scar on Chevalier's wrist where he made the single small incision.
The OHIP-covered procedure, however, cannot be used on patients with rheumatoid arthritis.
'The tissues in patients with rheumatoid arthritis are frail and they cannot hold the implant,' Bengezi said.
Chevalier opted to be unconscious when Bengezi performed the out-patient operation. She said she wanted to be spared the sight of her own blood.
But two of the patients he performed the operation on since only had a regional anesthetic and a mild sedative to keep them calm.
'They were awake, but just relaxed,' Bengezi said.
Unlike the procedure he used to use, patients can start using their hands very soon after the operation. The recovery time is a few weeks as opposed to seven months.
Chevalier said she was able to use her hand 'almost right away,' although there was some stiffness at first.
Bengezi presses on Chevalier's hand, gently but firmly.
'In this area, is there any pain?' he asked.
'No,' she replied.
'Very good,' the doctor assured the patient.
Despite seeing as many as 70 patients on a busy day, Bengezi tries to give each of them as much attention as he can.
'I like my patients. They are your patients and they're coming here to ask for your help. You don't give them a hard time.'
In the six years since he came to Welland, he has had a big impact on the lives of many south Niagara residents. Faye Silvestro, who has worked for Bengezi since he started his practice, said she's still amazed by the work he does.
Silvestro recalled one patient who's upper lip was torn off in an accident. She remembered seeing that patient's torn face and thinking, 'there's no way Dr. Bengezi can fix this one.'
But when she saw that patient again after the surgery, 'I couldn't believe my eyes.'
'He's not just your regular plastic surgeon, he's an artist. I always tell him that.'
It's also something she tells his patients, trying to allay any fears they may have about the operations they need.
The Niagara Health System has recently consolidated plastic surgery to its Greater Niagara General Hospital site in Niagara Falls as part of its hospital improvement plan. As a result, all the operations Bengezi performs, including Chevalier's, now take place in the operating room at the Niagara Falls hospital.
But Bengezi has no intention of giving up his Welland office. Instead, he plans to open an additional office in Niagara Falls where he can see patients from that part of the region as well.
عدد المشاركات : 34494
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تاريخ التسجيل : 30/04/2009
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