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Orthopaedic hope for UAE kids

Children with musculoskeletal conditions can now be treated locally with the latest methods, following the appointment of a leading paediatric orthopaedic surgeon in Dubai.

Children with musculoskeletal conditions can now be treated locally with the latest methods, following the appointment of a leading paediatric orthopaedic surgeon in Dubai.

Dr Mark Sinclair is the newest member of the Dubai Bone and Joint Center (DBJC), the first sub-speciality musculoskeletal clinic in the region. His arrival is a milestone in Dubai’s efforts to promote medical excellence.

To date, a lack of local specialists has meant that parents of children suffering from conditions such as talipes (club foot) or scoliosis have typically sought care abroad. Dr Sinclair’s appointment is indicative of a country-wide move to modernise local health facilities and reduce the number of residents seeking treatment overseas.

In his previous role at Altona Children’s Hospital in Germany, Dr Sinclair says, many of his patients were from the Gulf and Middle East region: “There is a perception in this country that people receive better treatment abroad, particularly with a complicated case.”

Noting the high incident of congenital conditions in the UAE, Dr Sinclair says he is committed to providing comprehensive local care. “It’s a full time job. It’s a commitment to DBJC and it’s also a commitment to the country. Part of the challenge is to come here and not just treat children, but raise the profile of orthopaedic conditions. For example, I’ve never seen such bad scoliosis as I have here. These are things that I really want to move ahead with.”

Dr Sinclair specialises in the correction of paediatric foot deformities and is a pioneer of the Ponseti technique, a non-surgical treatment for talipes. The condition affects about two in 1000 children in the Middle East and is more common in girls. “Clubfoot has been treated very surgically in the past but with the Ponseti technique, we’re trying to move away from that. We’ve seen a significant improvement in success rates,” he said.

The technique involves two phases; treatment and maintenance. The treatment stage uses gentle manipulation to correct the alignment of the foot and ankle and the maintenance stage uses casts and braces to retain the correction. The method has, says Dr Sinclair, definite benefits for the child. “They get only five to six casts, for five to six weeks rather than three to six months. Only about 2 to 3% will need surgery too, so it’s cheaper.”

Children past the age of five have traditionally been deemed too old for treatment, but Dr Sinclair believes the Ponseti technique can still be effective. “We’ve been venturing out and treating older children with this method. My colleagues have treated seven, eight and even nine-year-olds and had some good success with it. I don’t think we’ve found the limits for this treatment yet.”

Dr Sinclair’s previous posts include two years at the University Hosptial in Basle, Switzerland, a one-year clinical fellowship at Harvard Medical School and a role as deputy chief of orthopaedics at Altona Children’s Hospital, Germany.
His clinic accepts professional and direct referrals.

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