OBJECT: Frontoethmoidal meningoencephaloceles (MECs) are a relatively common abnormality in southeast Asia, with disastrous consequences for the sufferer. In Cambodia, a lack of skilled neuro-and craniofacial surgeons, and the cost of surgery limit the possibilities for appropriate treatment of patients with these lesions. The authors developed a low-cost humanitarian program with the goals of treating frontoethmoidal MECs, ensuring careful postoperative follow-up, and teaching Khmer surgeons how to treat these malformations. METHODS: This program was facilitated by two nongovernmental organizations: Rose Charities Cambodia provided the facilities, patients, and local staff, and "Médecins du Monde" provided visiting surgeons and anesthesiologists. All operations were free of charge for all patients. A strict follow-up program was organized to evaluate the surgical results, the social impact of the surgery, and the satisfaction levels of the children and their parents. RESULTS: Forty-five children and seven young adults with MECs were treated using a rather simple surgical technique. Of the three types of MECs encountered, the most frequent was the nasoethmoidal type (43 cases). The most common postoperative issue was a temporary CSF leak (in 16 patients). Cosmetic results were considered excellent or good in 40 patients, average in nine, and poor in one; two patients were lost to follow-up. The overall cost of each operation was estimated to be $380 (US dollars), far less than a standard MEC operation would cost in a more developed country. At the end of this humanitarian program, Khmer surgeons were able to treat standard cases of frontoethmoidal MECs without the help of foreigners. CONCLUSIONS: Patients in developing nations who have limited access to standard neurosurgical care can be treated for frontoethmoidal MECs with few complications and a satisfactory cost-to-benefit ratio.
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