Iran-Born Surgeon Performs Free Maxillofacial Surgeries

Babies born with the Robin syndrome have a small lower jaw and a tongue anchored too far back in the mouth. Treatment in infants focuses on breathing and feeding, and optimizing growth and nutrition
Dr. Nasser Nadjmi donated the instruments to the hospital for treatment of other infants with similar conditions.Dr. Nasser Nadjmi donated the instruments to the hospital for treatment of other infants with similar conditions.

During his one-week visit to Shiraz, capital of Fars Province, Iran-born Professor Nasser Nadjmi who lives in Belgium, examined 80 children with maxillofacial deformities and performed  free surgeries on 30 of them at Namazi Hospital affiliated to Shiraz University of Medical Sciences. 

He was invited by Dr. Hamidreza Foroutan, head of the hospital’s Department of Pediatric Surgery to treat a five-month-old baby girl who was suffering from a rare syndrome called Pierre Robin Syndrome (PRS), the Persian language newspaper ‘Iran’ reported. PRS is a congenital condition of facial abnormalities in humans.

Nadjmi had bought along with him three special medical devices from Belgium (each costing about $10,000) to treat the baby. He donated the instruments to the hospital for treatment of other infants with similar conditions. 

Babies born with the Robin sequence or syndrome have a small lower jaw and a tongue anchored too far back in the mouth. Treatment in infants focuses on breathing and feeding, and optimizing growth and nutrition. 

Aniseh, a ten-year-old girl who lives in Murti border village in Sistan-Baluchestan was among the children who received free surgery at the hospital. She was born with an orofacial cleft.

“When I saw her photos publicized by a news agency I decided to perform a surgery on her,” Nadjmi said. “After the surgery she looked at herself in the mirror and was very happy. It was one of the best moments in my life. Now she can speak and eat without difficulty.”

“I can’t perform surgeries on all those suffering from maxillofacial deformities; however I can bring the latest surgical techniques to my country. I am also ready to hold training workshops for medical specialists,” Nadjmi said.

Stating that timely treatment can prevent complications and improve the chances of recovery after surgery, he said many Iranian parents often postpone or skip a medical procedure mainly because they cannot afford it. 

“My charity (Nadjmi Foundation) in Belgium collects funds to help children in Iran and many philanthropists who contribute are not Iranians,” he pointed out. The charity’s aim is to provide free early cleft surgery for Iranian children, the best age for which is when a baby is three to six months old. 

More surgeries may be needed as children grow older and their facial structure changes. For example, older children (between 6 and 10 years) require bone graft to close gaps in the bone or gums near the front teeth.

An orofacial cleft is an opening in the lip and/or roof of the mouth (palate). It occurs in about 1 out of every 1,100 babies born in the country each year, making it one of the most common birth defects. 

Each surgery costs around $5000. In the last three years, Nadjmi has performed a total of 300 cleft lip surgeries in Iran.

  Prominent Surgeon

According to the International Journal of Cleft and Craniofacial, transoral robotic surgery for soft palate muscle reconstruction was researched for the first time by Dr. Nadjmi in 2013. His study results were published in the journal in 2016. 

Nadjmi, 51, was born in Tehran where he lived until the age of 18. After finishing high school he got a scholarship to study in Belgium.

At first he was admitted to the dental school of the Catholic University of Leuven. In September 1988, he joined the medical school of the same university and combined the medical and dental studies.

In June 1992 he got his dental degree and in June 1995 a medical degree.

Later he continued his education in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the Saint John Hospital in Bruges, Belgium, affiliated to the Catholic University of Leuven.

In July 1997 he graduated as a stomatologist and in August of the same year he was given ‘chief residency’ position at the department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery at the University of Houston, Texas.

From December 1997 through March 1998, he functioned as chief resident at the Department of Plastic and Craniofacial Surgery of the Providence Hospital in Southfield, Michigan. He also had a three-month rotation at the ENT department of MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

After his return from the United States in August 1998 he started as a Chief Resident at The Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in Leuven, Belgium.

In January, 2000 he joined the Craniofacial Association in Antwerp, Belgium. In the same year he founded the Cleft team at the University of Antwerp (UA).

Since May 2010 he is the coordinating program director for Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery through the UA. Currently he is a full member of the Craniofacial Association in Antwerp and functions as director of the team for Cleft and Craniofacial Anomalies at the university.

  Shiraz Center

He founded the Nadjmi Foundation in September 2015, a result of 15 years of his search “to find a humane and efficient way to deal with the suffering that children with cleft deformity have to go through,” Nadjmi says on the foundation website. 

“From the beginning I realized that just operating a part of their deformity wouldn’t ease the pain of children with cleft deformity who may have hearing, speech, and feeding problems beside facial growth disturbances.”

Cleft care is not only about the surgical part but needs a dedicated and passionate team of professionals to work together to help a child with facial disfiguration through a multidisciplinary approach. 

He says after 15 years of charity work in Africa, India and Southeast Asia, “I have found the possibility to establish a center in Shiraz.”

The idea is to establish a model center with 3 goals: training local surgeons; involving local university students in research projects; and providing support and teaching parents to deal with this handicap in their children.

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