Surgeons think outside the box to save lives

  • New surgical procedure is saving lives of cancer sufferers
  • Western Australian-first can remove previously inoperable tumours

An innovative approach to the removal of massive intra-abdominal malignant and benign tumours has been developed by surgeons at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital (SCGH).

In what is a Western Australian-first, the new procedure allows these tumours to be operated on in a much safer way.

The surgery treats sarcomas, which are soft tissue cancers, that weigh several kilograms, occupy the majority of the abdominal cavity and involve major organs and vessels.

Surgeons at SCGH have devised a procedure that uses a modified cardiac bypass machine. The machine allows the continuous flow of blood to the heart while these challenging massive abdominal tumours are removed during complicated surgery that usually takes an entire day to complete.

The procedure combines the expertise of the cancer surgeon with that of vascular and cardiothoracic surgeons working as a multi-disciplinary team.

With referrals to the State Sarcoma Service growing every year, major abdominal sarcoma operations are now being performed at SCGH almost weekly, with this lifesaving technique being performed monthly.

Prior to this pioneering new technique, the surgery to remove these aggressive tumours carried much higher risk and some would have been deemed inoperable.

As noted by Health Minister Roger Cook:

“This new procedure is now enabling lifesaving surgery which would not have been possible without the assistance of a heart bypass machine.

“These are real team events with multiple disciplines working collaboratively. This has led to significantly improved patient outcomes and put simply, saved lives. I congratulate the team on their remarkable effort.

“This innovative approach to cancer treatment is indicative of the way Western Australian health care professionals are embracing new ways of thinking to drive change that delivers better results.”

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