Curing Water on the Brain

TOPIC: Education, Maternal, Child, & Infant Care & Non-Communicable Diseases

Dr. Benjamin Warf, MD, the Director of the Neonatal and Congenital Anomaly Neurosurgery Program at Boston Children’s Hospital, is a pediatric neurosurgeon who has revolutionized the treatment of intra-cranial diseases in very young children, in particular, spina bifida and hydrocephalus (“water on the brain”). In places where access to neurosurgery is limited, children with untreated hydrocephalus often do not survive or suffer significant cognitive disabilities. In 2000, Dr. Warf became medical director and chief of surgery at the CURE Children’s Hospital in a remote town in eastern Uganda, where he encountered a high incidence of hydrocephalus. Because traditional treatment of hydrocephalus—insertion of shunts—is both prohibitively expensive and requires sustained medical monitoring beyond the reach of most children in the developing world, Dr. Warf pioneered an alternative, low-cost treatment. In carefully designed clinical trials, he demonstrated that a relatively straightforward, one-time treatment using modern endoscopic techniques results in outcomes that are at least as safe and effective as ventricular shunts, but requires far less medical infrastructure and post-surgical maintenance. Dr. Warf has also designed a training program and network for neurosurgeons throughout Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, increasing exponentially the number of children who can now be treated using his method and has created.  He also helped form the PUSH! Global Alliance as a platform for organizations to advance treatment and care to those affected by spina bifida and hydrocephalus worldwide.