Surgeons chip away the cheekbones of man, 41, whose features grew to double their normal size because of rare 'lion face syndrome'

October 10, 2018  21:00

A man whose face bones grew too big because of a rare condition known 'lion face syndrome' needed surgery to chip off parts of his skull.

The patient known only as Suresh, from Tamil Nadu in the south of India, was given the operation for free by generous surgeons.

To have the condition this severe is extremely rare, Suresh's doctor said, and there are thought to have only been a few cases ever documented.

Suresh spent half his life living with the condition after it began when he was 18 years old, until he desperately began seeking medical help 20 years later.

Suresh has leontiasis ossea, also known as lion face syndrome, which causes the bones in the face to grow too large.

It caused his jaw to swell painfully large and his cheek bones became huge and protruded sideways out of his face.

The bridge of his nose was also left smaller by the condition, while his eye sockets were deepened because of the build up of bone around them.

He had lived a normal life until he was 18 years old and signs of the condition began to appear.

Lion face syndrome is so named because, untreated, it is thought to give patients a face similar to that of a lion.

The condition cannot be stopped and can only be treated by cutting the skin to expose the overgrown bones and chip away at them.

Thanks to his surgeon, Dr Sunil Richardson in Nagercoil, a city at the southern tip of India, Suresh's face is now completely transformed.

Dr Richardson said: 'This patient had visited more than a dozen surgeons in different cities seeking treatment and all of the doctors only delayed it.

'He heard about our craniofacial work through another patient and then came over.

'Since he was a poor patient, we treated him for free and he only paid for his medicines.

'Surgical treatment is the only effective choice and we did a cosmetic shave of the lesion without leaving an obvious scar.'

In post-surgery photos, Suresh – whose name has been changed for privacy reasons – appears completely different.

Dr Richarson, 42, said the patient's condition was a result of fibrous dysplasia, where normal bone is replaced with connective tissue.

Fibrous dysplasia is a genetic condition which people are born with and is caused by a genetic mutation early on in the pregnancy – it is not hereditary.

Early signs can include a swollen jaw and teeth which are far apart. In rare cases the condition can affect hearing or vision if bones grow and press on the eyes and ears.

It leads to bones which are weak and prone to expanding, which in turn can cause leontiasis ossea.

'It's a very, very rare condition and – as this case is true classical leontiasis ossea – it is even more rare,' he added.

'There are maybe a few ever published in literature.'

Suresh spent a total of 10 days in hospital, including one in intensive care, in Nagercoil.

Left untreated, lion face syndrome can encroach on the eyes, mouth and nose, interfering with sight, breathing and the taking of food.

In extreme cases, it can lead to the senses being lost one by one before death caused by pressure on the brain.

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