A beacon of hope for arthritis patients in Uganda

Dorothy Namukasa one of the beneficiaries her knee was replaced by an implant after surgery at Mulago hospital. PHOTO URN

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | At most public and private hospitals in Uganda, surgeons cannot restore the knees and joints of patients battling rheumatic arthritis. Over ten years ago, there was only one specialist at Mulago National Referral Hospital to treat patients with musculoskeletal conditions.

On Thursday, Ugandan surgeons teaming up with counterparts from the United States of America replaced damaged knees and reconstructed joints of 35 patients who have endured the pain of this expensive and debilitating condition.

The surgeons used a knee arthroscopy procedure to replace the knees and damaged joints. Arthroscopy procedure that allows surgeons to view the knee joint without making a large cut or incision. Arthroscopy was in the past applied on children at Mulago.

Dr. Alex Bangirana an Orthopedic Consultant at Mulago Hospital told journalists that surgery of the knees and joints is the best option to eliminate chronic inflammation of joints due to this disease but the service is not available at most of the public and private hospitals in the country.

Some Ugandans have in the past traveled to countries like India, South Africa, and the United States of America for such surgeries.

Beneficiaries Speak Out

Namukasa Dorothy 58 a resident of Namugongo one of the beneficiaries of the knee surgery. She said she had been left to survive on painkillers because she could not afford the cost of surgery.

She told URN that she also feared that after knee surgery, she would not be able to walk again. Speaking in Luganda, Namukasa said she was getting better with mild pain after the surgery.

Lydia Kankunda from Kisaasi told URN that she developed arthritis because of her body weight and she had been living with the pain for quite a long time.

Dr. Alexander Bangirana said they were supported by their partners from the United States of America and Kenya to conduct nine arthroscopy surgeries and 26 total knee replacement surgeries.

Dr. Bangirana revealed that the partners from USA and Kenya donated the 26 implants used for knee replacement. On average, a knee implant costs about 8 million shillings or 1700 million dollars.

Dr. Bangirana said the beneficiaries from the just-ended camp were mostly the needy who could not afford the cost of implants.

He said patients with knee injuries that required arthroscopic surgeries were because of injuries from road and sports accidents.

He also revealed that arthritis majority is caused by age it’s common to people who are over 60 years and also people who are obese or over weight.

What is rheumatic arthritis ?

Arthritis is a unique illness that presents with fever and pain in the muscles and joints. It usually results in disfiguring or deformities of the limbs.

When it is severe, rheumatic arthritis can deform every joint in the body, including muscles, skin and other organs like the heart, liver, and kidney.

About 300,000 Ugandans are said to be living with rheumatoid arthritis. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which is a degenerative joint disease which is usually the result of trauma to a joint, infection of a joint, or wear and tear.

A recent analysis of Global Burden of Disease (GBD) 2019 data showed that approximately 1.71 billion people globally live with musculoskeletal conditions, including low back pain, neck pain, fractures, other injuries, osteoarthritis, amputation and rheumatoid arthritis.



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