Insight into neurosurgery – Dr Zubair Tahir

During Paul O’Grady’s Little Heroes, we’re shining a spotlight on the wonderful staff across the hospital who help children get better and fulfil their potential. Dr Zubair Tahir is a Consultant Paediatric Neurosurgeon and has worked at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) since 2013. Dr Tahir features in episode six treating patient Ocean.

What is your role and how did this lead you to meet Ocean? 

I am a consultant paediatric neurosurgeon at GOSH. Ocean initially presented to our colleagues in the Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) department with swelling on her forehead. Initial scans showed that she had an infection around her sinuses as well as around the skull bone. Her first operation was carried out by the ENT team, where they took out the pus from her sinuses and around her forehead. Later on, when Ocean had her follow-up MRI scans, it was noticed that an infection had extended inside the brain as well, and at that point, Ocean was referred to me. 

Her condition was quite a rare one? 

Yes, the condition is called a Pott's puffy tumour. Interestingly, it’s not a tumour, it’s an infection. It was initially described for infections around the frontal sinuses, where one develops swelling on the forehead. It is quite rare – most of the reported cases are from developing countries. In exceptional cases, if there is a bug that is particularly aggressive, you can have an infection that is across the bone, as well as in the sinuses. 

What was Ocean like as a patient? 

It was a privilege to treat her. Ocean's one of our star patients – energetic and confident. She understood each step of the treatment. She was very much involved in her treatment. She has shown a remarkable capability for recovery, and it’s great to see that she’s up and about, having recovered fully. 

What was it like being involved in the filming? 

It was a very different experience for me – my first time, I must admit! But I enjoy any opportunity to talk about GOSH and the way we work here as a team – and how privileged we are in treating these children! It was a good experience to work with the charity team too. 

Can you think of any examples in your area of expertise where charitable funding has made a difference? 

Of course. We have a new ward – Possum ward – which houses eight new beds and was funded by the charity. We have new operating theatres at GOSH, and the Charity really helped with that aspect. I have been involved in showcasing the new equipment we have – currently, the charity is helping us to build an interoperative MRI scanning facility at GOSH, which is definitely going to help (children like Ocean). The facility will change the way we manage children with neurosurgical pathologies and will definitely improve patient' outcomes.

If you're inspired by Dr Tahir's treatment of Ocean and interested in a career at GOSH, explore our careers pages.