25 Incredible Medical Operations You Didn’t Think Possible

Are you interested in medical advances, especially in surgery? Surgeons have developed and tried new techniques within the past few years, and many of those efforts were discovered in the battlefields of Iraq. Others were developed simply in response to heart-breaking cases of children with severe physical and internal malformations.

The following list of 25 incredible medical operations are so wild that you may not think they are possible. You may have heard of some, but the stories behind the links below can help you to realize the vast possibilities available to help save lives. The links are listed in alphabetical order to show readers we do not favor one story over another.

  1. Baby Macie Hope Born Twice: Marcie Hope was born twice – once when surgeons at Texas Children’s Hospital took the tiny fetus from Marcie’s mother’s womb to remove a tumor that would have killed Macie before she was born. Marcie was born again on 3 May, surgically repaired and perfectly healthy.
  2. Birthmark Removal: Cody Hall was born with a hemangioma, a tumorous birthmark that distorted the shape of her face and grew larger as she got older. But, eighteen reconstructive surgeries later, the girl with the hopelessly deformed face flashed a gorgeous smile at her prom.
  3. Born with Two Heads: Manar Maged was born in 2004 with an extremely rare medical condition known as craniopagus parasiticus, or one body and two heads. Manar’s second head, although fully functioning, could not survive without Manar; but, it was a parasite surviving on Manar’s blood supply and putting her life at risk. Surgery to separate Manar from her “twin” was successful, although the parasitic twin did not survive. Also, Manar may suffer from brain damage, but only time will tell.
  4. Brain Pacemaker: Laura Herbert suffered from dystonia, a movement disorder that affects a quarter-million Americans. It’s caused by abnormal activity in the part of the brain that regulates muscle control. But, in 2007, a ‘pacemaker’ installed in Laura’s brain enables her to walk and move normally.
  5. Brain Removal: Six-year-old Jessie Hall had half her brain removed in 2008 as treatment for Rasmussen’s encephalitis, which causes seizures. Although this is a radical procedure, it worked. Follow Jessie’s recovery at her blog.
  6. Brain Responds to Electrical Impulses: A man who spent more than six years in a near-vegetative state has made a dramatic recovery following a pioneering treatment to stimulate his brain with electrical impulses. This procedure worked despite surgery immediately after trauma.
  7. Deep Brain Stimulation: A ground-breaking procedure being carried out at Queen’s Hospital in New York is transforming the lives of people with Parkinson’s Disease. The procedure sees a tiny electrode inserted into a specific area of the brain. When it is switched on, it can drastically reduce the tremors experienced by Parkinson’s sufferers.
  8. Don’t Sweat It: Hyperhidrosis is a condition that creates excess sweating of the hands and feet. Previous operations to remedy this condition were major, with long recovery periods. But, in 1999, Dr. Cooper, clinical chief of neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, created endoscopic sympathectomy, a procedure that uses the world’s smallest endoscope, a fiber optic camera just three millimeters wide. He used this camera to locate sympathetic nerves that run behind the lungs and through the chest. During the procedure, the T2 segments of the nerve chain which control sweating of the hands and feet are severed to permanently stop excess perspiration.
  9. Headache Relief: Although young Danyelle Williamson suffers from a host of problems as a result of spinal malformations, her headaches and dizzy spells have been cured thanks to a surgery where the back part of Danyelle’s first cervical vertebrae and part of the occipital bone of the skull were removed, taking the pressure off her brain stem and spinal cord.
  10. Heart Movement Surgery: In September 2009, surgeons operated on an eight-day-old infant to move his heart from outside his chest to inside, where it belongs. Born with the birth defect, Ectopia cordis, this child is a statistic that includes five to nine cases per million births with extremely high mortality rate.
  11. Hernias Get Help: The tradition hernia operation that has been performed for over a century may culminate in further physical issues. Now, however, hernioplasty procedures have dramatically reduced all the problems caused by the older operation. One advance includes the “plug and patch” procedure, in which the bulge is pushed in and held back with special mesh material.
  12. High-Risk Organ Removal: Seven-year-old Heather McNamara went through a grueling operation this year, where surgeons removed six vital organs to reach a baseball-sized tumor that threatened her life. During the 23-hour surgery, Kato’s team removed and chilled the child’s stomach, pancreas, spleen, liver and small and large intestines as they would for transplantation, so they could be restored after the tumor was taken out.
  13. In-Utero Foot Repair: Australian surgeons saved the feet of a baby in the womb in 2008 by performing what is believed to be the earliest in-utero surgery of its kind in the world. Constricting bands were cutting off the blood to Leah Bowlen’s feet when her mother was 22-weeks pregnant. Without the ground-breaking surgery, little Leah would have been born with no feet. Now, there is only an indentation mark around her ankle to indicate the problem that was rectified.
  14. Mermaid Baby Cured: Milagros Cerron has a rare syndrome called “sirenomelia,” which describes her legs, which were fused together from her trunk to heels creating what is known as “mermaid syndrome.” Doctors inserted silicon tissue-expanders under Milagro’s skin to cause her skin to grow. This procedure created enough skin for doctors to use when they separated her legs for normal growth.
  15. Metal Saves the Face: Marlie Casseus at age 14 suffered from a rare form of polyostotic fibrous dysplasia, a genetic disease that causes the sufferer’s bones to become swollen and as soft as jelly. Once tumors were removed, surgeons began to insert metal plates into Marlie’s face to reconstruct her profile. More surgeries will follow to help replace the degenerating bone, but the operations have returned Marlie to an almost normal life.
  16. Nation’s First Face Transplant: Five years ago, a shotgun blast left a ghastly hole where the middle of Connie Culp’s face had been. In May, she received a new face from a dead woman that allows her to talk, smile, smell and taste her food again.
  17. New Knee Surgery Technique: By transplanting cellular material from the pelvic area into the knee, surgeons were able to help patients to nearly normal activity and knee function with no complications. This type of surgery can help to eliminate knee replacements.
  18. Robotic Myotomy: Surgeons at the University of Illinois Medical Center at Chicago (UIC) performed a robotic-assisted surgery on a 12-year-old Chicago boy with a rare swallowing disorder called achalasia in 2006. UIC surgeons were the first in the world to perform robotic myotomy for achalasia in adults and in children.
  19. Scarless Surgery: Scientists have made new advances in a technology-called “Natural Orifice Translumenal Endoscopic Surgery” (NOTES), that could pave the way for scarless gastroenterology and surgery. NOTES eliminates the need for incisions and allows for less pain and scarring associated with traditional laparoscopic surgery along with a much faster recovery time for the patient.
  20. Severed Spine Rejoined: After blades in a tractor’s harrow severed Premchand’s spine, he was denied treatment by five hospitals before doctors at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences took him in. Claiming this surgery as the first of its kind, the spine was rejoined, and nine months later, Premchand is walking with minimal assistance.
  21. Skull Crackers Save Lives: Developed on the Iraqi battlefields, this procedure can remedy severe head injuries that cause the brain to swell. By removing part of a patient’s skull to allow the brain to swell instead of putting pressure on the brain stem, this operation can eliminate irreversible comas. After several months, when the brain recedes, “Skull Cracker” surgeons close the scalp with a hard acrylic implant.
  22. The $50,000 C-Leg: Thanks to this revolutionary prosthetic device, war veterans and others who lose their legs can walk. The C-Leg makes use of a microprocessor in the knee that makes 50 calculations per second to adapt to a user’s gait. Made from titanium and graphite, this prosthesis can help users to stay stable and upright on various surfaces, angles and even going up and down stairs.
  23. Toes into Fingers: Two-year-old Bridey Turnbull of Australia was born with malformed fingers due to the congenital condition called symbrachydactyly. Surgeons used two of her toes to create ‘pincer’ abilities so she can use a knife and fork or pick up objects.
  24. Upper-Limb Control: A report this past January stated that a surgical technique, known as targeted muscle reinnervation, appears to enable patients with arm amputations to have improved control of functions with an artificial arm. Improving the function of prosthetic arms remains a challenge, because access to the nerve-control information for the arm is lost during amputation.
  25. VEPTR Saves Kate’s Life: In 2003, Kate Rueckert was born with arthrogryposis, a rare birth defect that affects muscles and joints. Her spine twisted at a 30-degree angle, enough to limit growth and that would limit her life to 15-20 years. But, in 2004, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved an artificial rib called a Vertical Expandable Prosthetic Titanium Rib (VEPTR), that acts like a jack to push bones into the proper position. The surgery, performed in 2005, may have saved Kate’s life.

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