Journal of Emergencies, Trauma, and Shock
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LETTER TO EDITOR  
Year : 2012  |  Volume : 5  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 106-107
Improvized management of lumbar disc prolapse in Antarctica


1 National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research, Goa; Departments of Otolaryngology and Community Medicine, Sikkim Manipal Institute of Medical Sciences, Gangtok, India
2 Departments of Otolaryngology and Community Medicine, Sikkim Manipal Institute of Medical Sciences, Gangtok, India
3 Department of Orthopaedics, Maulana Azad Medical College and L.N.J.P.N. Hospital, New Delhi, India

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Date of Web Publication22-Feb-2012
 

How to cite this article:
Bhatia A, Pal R, Dhal A. Improvized management of lumbar disc prolapse in Antarctica. J Emerg Trauma Shock 2012;5:106-7

How to cite this URL:
Bhatia A, Pal R, Dhal A. Improvized management of lumbar disc prolapse in Antarctica. J Emerg Trauma Shock [serial online] 2012 [cited 2019 Aug 24];5:106-7. Available from: http://www.onlinejets.org/text.asp?2012/5/1/106/93103


Sir,

The 27 th Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica wintered over at Indian Antarctic Station, Maitri (70°45'S; 11°44'E) from November 2007 to February 2009 with 26 members (six scientists and 20 logistics personnel). Antarctica is physically isolated in winter; medical facilities are elementary.

A vehicle mechanic complained of sudden onset low back ache on 4 th June 2008, about 5 days after returning from a 4-day-long convoy duty. The 43-year-old male vehicle mechanic, responsible for maintenance of heavy machinery and to run supply convoys to the Indian coastal camp 120 km (15 hours) from Maitri, endured heavy physical labor on hard, irregular blue ice in extremely cold (0C -30C) and windy conditions and icy terrain with frequent blizzards.

The pain subsided in 3 days with oral NSAIDS, local heat application and bed rest only to recur 10 days later, while attempting to lift a 50 kg sack. This time the pain was worse and radiated from the lower back down the posterior aspect of left thigh extending up to the mid-calf region with occasional episodes of tingling and numbness of the outer three toes and plantar aspect of the left foot without any weakness in the lower limbs. The pain was aggravated by coughing and relieved on lying down.

Clinical examination revealed an ectomorphic feature with loss of lumbar lordosis with tenderness in the lumbosacral region and a positive straight leg raising (SLR) in the left lower limb at about 30°; there was no scoliosis. The power, tone, sensation and the deep tendon reflexes of lower limbs were normal. Roentgenography of the lower back did not reveal any abnormality [Figure 1]. Since advanced imaging facilities were not available, he was clinically diagnosed as a case of prolapsed lumbar disc at L5-S1 with sciatica. He was resumed on oral NSAIDs, local heat application and bed rest. When he did not show any significant improvement for 5 days, online remote specialist advice was sought.
Figure 1: The X-ray Lumbosacral Spine (AP view) was taken when the patient did not respond to bed rest and analgesics and was planned to be put on traction

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We decided that the patient has to be put on traction to suck in the disc protrusion and enforce bed rest. [1],[2],[3] In absence of a traction kit we improvized it. A mountaineering harness was tied around the patient's waist and a mountaineering rope was hooked to the harness using a carabiner with a 15-kg barbell weight suspended from the other end. The foot end of the bed was raised by 30° using bricks [Figure 2].
Figure 2: A mountaineering harness was secured around the waist of the patient and the loops were drawn medially from under the buttocks and secured with a carabiner to which a mountaineering rope was suspended. The barbell weights were suspended from the rope

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The traction was removed whenever the patient experienced significant discomfort and for daily ablutions and meals. However, the patient was allowed to sleep without the traction. Visual Analogue Scale [4] for assessment of pain showed improvement from 6 to 2 points after 20 days and SLR of 60°. He was gradually weaned off traction. The spinal extension exercises were initiated and he was mobilized with a weight-lifting belt used as a lumbosacral support. After 3 months he was asymptomatic and uneventfully returned to his routine convoy duty and continued to be asymptomatic till 1 year.


   Acknowledgments Top


The 27 th Indian Scientific Expedition was funded and organized by National Centre for Antarctic and o0 cean Research (NCAOR), Ministry of Earth Sciences, Govt. of India. We are grateful to NCAOR and the Indian Scientific Expeditions in their cooperation during the management of the patient and during the writing of this article. We also thank all the members of the 27 th Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica, for their cooperation during the management of this case and making this work possible. This is NCAOR Contribution No. 018/2011.

The authors acknowledge the invaluable contribution of Dr. Y. Caspar Johnson in management of the patient in his capacity as medical officer of the 27 th Indian Scientific Expedition to Antarctica.

 
   References Top

1.Ozturk B, Gunduz OH, Ozoran K, Bostanoglu S. Effect of continuous lumbar traction on the size of herniated disc material in lumbar disc herniation. Rheumatol Int 2006;26:622-6.   Back to cited text no. 1
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2.Onel D, Tuzlaci M, Sari H, Demir K. Computed tomographic investigation of the effect of traction on lumbar disc herniations. Spine (Phila Pa 1976) 1989;14:82-90.  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.Sari H, Akarirmak U, Karacan I, Akman H. Computed tomographic evaluation of lumbar spinal structures during traction. Physiother Theory Pract 2005;21:3-11.  Back to cited text no. 3
[PUBMED]    
4.Gould D, Kelly D, Goldstone L, Gammon J. Examining the validity of pressure ulcer risk assessment scales: Developing and using illustrated patient simulations to collect the data. J Clin Nurs 2001;10:697-706.  Back to cited text no. 4
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Correspondence Address:
Abhijeet Bhatia
National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research, Goa; Departments of Otolaryngology and Community Medicine, Sikkim Manipal Institute of Medical Sciences, Gangtok
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/0974-2700.93103

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