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Heroic, smart GP

The story of the country-based GP who drilled a hole in the side of a young boy’s head using a household drill moved me. The boy had a head injury accident that led to internal bleeding that put pressure on the boy’s brain. The boy faced a near certain short-term death if the pressure was not removed. 

The GP Dr Rob Carson didn’t have access to fancy medical equipment to eliminate the pressure so used an electric household drill. He had not carried out this procedure before.  A Melbourne neurosurgeon guided Dr Carson through the drilling by telephone –  ‘drill just below the bruise mark’ was my understanding of the gist of the telephoned instruction.  Rough and risky the procedure was but there was no alternative.

I thought Dr Carson was smart at doing his job – in recognising what the problem was – and both smart and courageous in taking unorthodox means to save the boy’s life.  An inspirational and remarkable doctor.

The story has been picked up in the international media. So it should.

8 comments to Heroic, smart GP

  • derrida derider

    It was well done, but the use of a household drill to relieve intercranial pressure is a well known improvised emergency procedure – like using ballpoint pen tubes for emergency tracheotomy. I used to go to a GP who’d had occasion to do it at a road accident while on holiday in Greece.

  • conrad

    I was impressed too, although it reminded me of how un-fancy a lot of medical equipment still looks. Hopefully advances in nanotechnology will shelve most of it.

  • hc

    The downside was that the procedure could have failed. I am impressed that Dr. Carson didn’t go for ‘safety-first’. He put all fears aside by doing what he thought was best for his patient. I wonder if it could have happened in the US.

  • Andrew T

    Makes for a great story but if you think about it, it doesn’t sound like the trickiest diagnosis done that day in Victoria, or the most challenging surgery even allowing for the improvised tool and the GPs lack of experience.

  • It didn’t mention what size drill he used and if it was a wood or steel bit.

  • hc

    There is something unhealthy about that last comment FXH but I can’t put my finger on it.

  • Uncle Milton

    “The downside was that the procedure could have failed”

    Not really, because the kid would have died for sure without the procedure.

    And think of the future equipment cost savings. Now hospitals know they can use the same equipment for carpentry and neurosurgery. They’ll probably be able to use knives from the cafeteria as scalpels and wood saws as bone saws. The possibilities are endless.

  • derrida derider

    My wife used to be an operating theatre nurse for an orthopedic surgeon, back in the days before keyhole surgery. She said that their toolkit did indeed bear a remarkable resemblance to a carpenter’s. Especially the mallet and chisels.

    But FXH is right. They oughta tell us the right size bit so’s I can throw one into the First Aid kit in the back of the ute. I’d reckon a HSS bit on a cordless drill will do better than a masonry one on a hammer drill, though a spade bit might be quicker. Trouble is I dunno whether Australian-made skulls take metric or imperial.