Many people who have been infected with Covid-19 may experience a significant loss to their quality of life: that of smell. Anosmia, the name given to this condition, has been treated with physiotherapy and medications, but has not been successful in all cases.
Observing this, the otorhinolaryngologist Ronaldo Carvalho Jr. decided to think of other ways to help the recovery of these patients. Professor at the University Hospital of the Federal University of Sergipe (HU-UFS), Ronaldo is about to test a surgical technique to restore the ability to smell.
Carvalho’s initiative already has five people interested in undergoing the procedure in this experimental phase.
“There are already several studies in the international and national literature showing that 85% of patients who have symptomatic Covid develop anosmia. Of that 85%, 30% will have hyposmia, which is not to feel the strongest smells, that is, they will be without the same effectiveness, and from 3% to 5% will have a definitive anosmia ”, said the otorhinolaryngologist, who works in the development of the technique alongside Alex Franco de Carvalho, a doctor specialized in microsurgery of peripheral nerves.
According to O Globo, the basis for the operation they propose is the knowledge of surgeries that are already successfully performed for anosmia caused by other causes. “The most frequent is traumatic brain injury, but anosmia can also be a sequel after the removal of tumors from inside the nose that are occupying the olfactory region”, explained Ronaldo.
The purpose of the surgical process is to transfer new functioning nerves to the region of the mucosa of the nose that is practically dead. To do this, specialists will look for a nerve in the patient’s leg that can be grafted to the face.
“The functioning nerve that we are going to use is a supra-orbitrary nerve, which is a branch of the ophthalmic nerve. As this supra-orbitrary nerve is very small, very short, it does not reach the nose, so we have to interpose a nerve bridge, that is, use another nerve. So we are going to get a nerve in the patient’s leg, a functioning sural nerve ”, detailed Carvalho.
The removal of the nerve can cause a temporary sensation of numbness in the foot, which should pass with time, having the sensitivity of the place compensated with the work of other nerves.
As the O Globo report found, the proper location for the “installation” of this bridge between the nerve removed from the leg and the nerve in the eye region will be found by surgeons with the help of endoscopy techniques.
The time of the surgery should be between five and six hours. Everything requires a lot of delicacy because “the nerves, at times, are so thin that we cannot see with the living eye, only under the microscope”, concluded Ronaldo.
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