High Tech Liver Surgery

March 26, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
The number of Americans diagnosed with liver cancer has doubled in the past decade. As many as 75,000 patients a year will be diagnosed with a liver cancer that has spread from another organ. But now, some surgeons are using a new method to remove diseased portions of the liver. It's improving a patient's odds, while cutting recovery time in half.

Dr. Cataldo Doria has performed hundreds of liver procedures. But now, his two newest surgical tools are making an amazing difference for patients like Beng Lin.

"I guess I consider myself one of the lucky ones," Lin says.

Dr. Doria removed 60 percent of Lin's liver.

"Not a lot of people can have a surgery with a tumor that big," Lin says.

Lin was up and walking 24 hours after surgery. Doctors say he had such a speedy recovery because he lost virtually no blood during the procedure. It's a huge challenge for any surgeon because the liver receives a dual blood supply. A large vein carries blood to the organ from the intestine. A big artery also supplies blood.

"This makes the liver similar to a sponge full of blood. Therefore, cutting the liver is very complex because major bleeding can occur," says Cataldo Doria, M.D., Ph.D., a transplant surgeon at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia.

Instead of cutting, Dr. Doria uses a surgical tool called a CUSA. It uses ultrasonic waves to aspirate, or suck out, liver cells.

"Now, ideally, if you remove all of the liver cells, you are left with a skeleton of blood vessels," Dr. Doria says.

Another surgeon follows with a tool called a TissueLink. Hot, sterile water flows through the tip of this probe and seals the blood vessels upon contact.

"What we really want to achieve is to eliminate the blood transfusion."

Six months after his surgery, Lin is cancer-free and feeling better than ever.

Doctors say with traditional liver surgery, a patient could need as many as five to 10 units of blood, or more. Dr. Doria says other liver diseases can also be treated surgically using the CUSA and Tissuelink.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Thomas Jefferson University Hospital
Patient Information Line
(800) JEFF-NOW
www.jeffersonhospital.org
Philadelphia, PA


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