An eminent British neuro-surgeon has been performing complex brain operations using a £30 do-it-yourself cordless power drill at a clinic in Ukraine.
Henry Marsh, a senior consultant at St George’s hospital in Tooting, south London, has used the Bosch 9.6 volt battery-operated hand tool to open up the skulls of his patients to remove life-threatening tumours. Occasionally the battery has gone flat halfway through.
The operation is performed with the patients fully awake – a technique that fell out of use in Britain 50 years ago. Marsh said that Ukrainians could withstand such a practice because they were “very tough”.
The 58-year-old consultant travels to Ukraine twice a year to perform free operations at a clinic run by a fellow surgeon, Igor Petrovich. The handyman drill was used because the local doctors could not afford state-of-the-art equipment.
When working for the National Health Service, Marsh uses a £30,000 compressed-air medical drill, but he said that the Bosch was an effective stand-in. “There’s not a huge difference,” he said. “The drill is Igor’s solution. It’s simply an ordinary drill which he uses with the standard medical drill bits. I have used the Bosch drill myself when I’ve been operating with Igor. It’s exactly the drill that you could have in your garden shed. He bought it at a do-it-yourself shop.”
There is a shortage of fully trained anaesthetists so Marsh’s patients are given only a local anaesthetic. This enables him to talk to them to ensure that he is not doing any permanent damage as he drills.