The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Lifeline surgery for rare disease

New Delhi, Dec. 1: The surgery that Amitabh Bachchan has undergone might have been life-saving because perforations in the intestine can be fatal when left untreated, leading surgeons have said.

A spokesperson at Mumbai’s Leelavati Hospital, where Bachchan was operated on yesterday, said the 64-year-old actor had been treated for a perforation in the jejunum, the middle segment of the small intestine.

The hospital also said Bachchan had been treated for diverticulitis, a condition in which tiny pouches that bulge outwards from weak spots along the walls of the intestine get infected or inflamed.

Gastro-intestinal surgeons, who were not in the team that operated on Bachchan but who have treated patients with diverticulitis and perforations, say diverticulitis of the small intestine is rare and its cause unknown.

“We know the mechanics of diverticulitis, but not the cause,” said Dr Subhash Gupta of Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi.

While the tiny, infected and inflamed pouch pushing on the wall of the intestine may itself tear and create a perforation, doctors say there might be other causes of jejunal perforations.

Intestinal perforation is a surgical emergency. “Bacteria from the intestine can enter the abdominal cavity. Untreated, this can lead to infection of the bloodstream and multiple organ failure. I’d call this life-saving surgery,” Gupta said.

The operation is always done under general anaesthesia. Surgeons make an incision, isolate the loop of the intestine where perforation has occurred, cut it off, and rejoin the two intestinal segments.

A gastro-intestinal surgeon at AIIMS said that while patients need to take standard post-operative precautions, long-term lifestyle changes are not required.

“Diverticulitis causing perforations in the jejunum are rare,” said Dr Sanjay Nagral of Mumbai’s Jaslok Hospital. He added that he had encountered an increasing number of patients with diverticulitis in recent years.

Diverticulitis is far more common in the colon than in the small gut. Colonic diverticulitis was once linked to low-fibre diets such as those that dominate in the West.


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