A 38-year-old Australian woman who had been battling depression for 26 years became the first to undergo a psychiatric operation in Mumbai, India.
It is reported that this could be perhaps the first such case since the Mental Healthcare Act was passed in 2017 which allows for only a patient’s informed consent along with approval of a specially constituted state mental health board.
For the Australian patient, the process of getting permission from the state to actaul operation took almost 10 months.
Leading neurosurgeon Dr Paresh Doshi (M.S., M.Ch.), in charge of the Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery program at Jaslok Hospital, told local media:
“Maharashtra has not only been ahead of many other states in setting up a mental health board, it has now become the first to give permission for a surgery.”
In fact, Dr Doshi, who has conducted over 650 Stereotactic surgeries including 450 deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgeries, is credited with several firsts in India including the first DBS for depression in Asia and Australia performed in 2013.
Dr Doshi is President of The Neuromodulation Society of India and Director of the Asian-Australian Society for Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery. He is considered a pioneer in the field of deep brain stimulation (DBS) and has performed the largest number of DBS surgeries in India.
“We operated on three patients with depression in the past and they are doing well.”
Dr Swapnil Lele, director of health services in Maharashtra, told the media that the Australian patient had tried various combinations of antidepressants and therapies over the years.
“Although she is a trained occupational therapist, she stopped going out for work seven years back.”
The patient’s brother said that she had tried different antidepressants and was prescribed at least five medicines in very high doses than usual.
“She also had undergone ECT (electroconvulsive therapies) and cognitive and behavioural therapy, without much benefit.”
The family got Dr Doshi’s reference from two Australian patients who had undergone DBS for depression at Jaslok Hospital years back.
In India, Maharashtra and Karnataka are the only states where DBS surgeries have been regularly conducted for depression in the past.
Dr Doshi observed that during surgery the Australian patient’s anxiety significantly dropped and her mood improved slightly during the surgery.
‘“During DBS surgery, the patient is awake so that we can map responses while placing the electrodes.”
The patient and her brother have left India for Melbourne and Dr Doshi added that it will take a few months for the surgery’s effects to show clearly on the patient’s overall health.