A 59 year-old man with a large tumor on his liver recently underwent a grueling 43 hour surgery to remove the tumor and give him a new lease on life. The lengthy surgery was performed by a team of physicians at New York Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Medical Center.
This particular surgery is unique in that it was an ex vivo resection, which essentially involves removing the organs and operating on them outside the body. This type of procedure is done when tumors cannot be treated or removed in any other way. Once the tumor is removed, the organs are returned to the body and sewn back in.
Ex vivo resections are highly complicated and can require the work of dozens of surgeons and anesthesiologists, which is in turn reflected in the high cost of the procedure. However, according to one of the surgeons in the present case, Tomoaki Kato, MD, “If you don’t do it, the patient would have no chance to live.” Dr. Kato has been the lead surgeon in about 16 ex vivo operations and assisted in half a dozen others.
The ex vivo resection was the last line of defense for this patient. The present patient’s tumor was fast growing and did not respond to chemotherapy or radiation. Apparently the patient did not have any symptoms prior to October 2008, at which point he became generally itchy and jaundiced. At that time a CT scan discovered a softball-sized tumor that was pressing on his liver and blocking his bile duct. Yet just three years prior an abdominal scan had come back negative. There were no issues of a failure to timely diagnose the cancer on the physician’s part.
Further evidence of the speed of his tumor’s growth was that over the course of the next year the tumor increased from the size of a softball to the size of a football. The tumor was taking additional effects on the patient’s body, causing him to waste away as he lost 70 lbs.
However, the patient’s current prognosis is much more positive. According to Dr. Kato, the patient is feeling “fairly good”. At this time it is unknown whether the tumor will grow back or not. If the growth does not recur then the patient has the possibility of a long life in front of him.
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