A 64-year-old man from Germiston feels healthy again for the first time in years thanks to the implantation of a biological pigskin prosthesis to repair cuts in his abdomen.
“I already feel 80% better. It’s the healthiest I’ve probably felt in the last three years,” Albertus du Plessis, a former toolmaker, told Rhewal.
Du Plessis was diagnosed with rectal cancer in 2016 and declared medically unfit to continue working in January last year. The cancer was excised at the time and Du Plessis has had to wear an intestinal pouch ever since.
Although his cancer is still in remission, Du Plessis has had frequent problems with his health since his diagnosis. He has struggled especially over the past few years with diaphragmatic ruptures that constantly arise in his abdomen and has had to undergo several operations to repair these ruptures. Among other things, the ruptures cause blockages and blockages in his intestines.
In January of this year, he became seriously ill again. It was then confirmed that he had three major fractures.
On February 8, he underwent another operation to repair his fractures. During the operation, Dr. Wimpie Jansen van Vuuren (55) a large mesh prosthesis made from pigskin [ook Permacol genoem] implanted at Du Plessis. It is similar to mesh but is biological in nature and not synthetic.
Jansen van Vuuren is a general surgeon at the Netcare Alberton hospital where Du Plessis was treated and operated on.
Although Du Plessis has been aware of this type of procedure for years, it was initially a strange concept for him to imagine a “piece of pig skin” being implanted in his body. The procedure originated in France and although South African doctors are well-acquainted with it, it is not often performed because the process is very expensive.
Du Plessis is grateful that so far the procedure seems to be finally putting him on the road to recovery.
“It’s still a bit sensitive, but it’s still early [in die herstelproses] and I feel really good. If it works, I’m satisfied.”
This father of three and grandfather of 11 must visit his doctor again in six months for a follow-up examination.
Expensive but effective
Jansen van Vuuren explained to Rhewal that the implantation of such a prosthesis is not a new, unique phenomenon in practice.
It is, however, very expensive and usually not the first route for the treatment of incisional fractures. The pig skin mesh is manufactured in South Africa, but medical funds are sometimes reluctant to pay for it and doctors usually have to motivate why they should use it.
Jansen van Vuuren says that depending on the size of the prosthesis, it can cost up to R80 000.
According to Jansen van Vuuren, the procedure is mainly used, as in Du Plessis’s case, for selected patients who have large, complicated incisional hernias. It may also be that the use of other prostheses, such as synthetic mesh to repair previous incisional fractures, has been rejected by the body or has become septic.
“We will also use it for patients who have developed incisional hernias due to previous abdominal surgeries. The big difference is only biological versus synthetic.
“Due to the scientific composition of the biological prosthesis, it is of great benefit to patients who have these kinds of problems, as the biological mesh is not rejected by the body like synthetic mesh, but instead disintegrates in a natural way in the body.
“Biological mesh like this also offers better reinforcement and replication of a patient’s original abdominal wall than synthetic mesh.”
The complications associated with this are also significantly less, and it is better to use when larger prostheses are needed to repair incisional fractures over large areas of the body, says Jansen van Vuuren.
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