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Last Updated: Monday, 23 February, 2004, 14:11 GMT
'Record' op saves knife victim
By Venkitesh Ramakrishnan
BBC correspondent in Thiruvananthapuram

Surgeons in India have performed an extraordinary feat by safely treating a woman who arrived at hospital with a 15cm blade embedded in her face.

Indian doctors remove a 15cm blade from a woman's face in a historic operation
An X-ray and the offending knife (left); the recovering victim (right)

The woman had allegedly been stabbed in the face by her husband - said to be an alcoholic.

Doctors in the town of Thiruvananthapuram in the south Indian state of Kerala spent an hour discussing how to remove the blade, before embarking on a five hour life-saving operation.

They believe the procedure has broken the record for removing outsized objects lodged in a human face.

Their report on the operation has been forwarded to several international medical journals.

The woman is thought to have received the injury when her husband struck her face with a 25cm knife.

An initial examination revealed that the 15cm blade had pierced the face below the right nostril and reached the base of the right ear.

The sharp edge of the knife was almost touching the root of her jugular vein.

Multi-disciplinary approach

Dr RC Sreekumar, the assistant professor of surgery who led the operation, told the BBC it was an extremely perilous procedure.

"If we had removed the knife in a hurry, the jugular vein would most certainly have been cut, resulting in instant death."

Dr Sreekumar and a team of specialists - including a general surgeon, an ear, nose and throat specialist and a dental surgeon - spent an hour consulting each other on the best way to proceed.

They decided to remove the knife in two parts - first the handle, then the blade.

The removal of the blade sparked internal bleeding - but the doctors staunched the flow by tying up a carotid artery.

Dr Sreekumar says the medical team's multi-disciplinary approach and detailed preparation helped save the woman's life, without seriously disfiguring her face.

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