First-off keyhole surgery spells success for North Queensland

25/Mar/2022     Mater Group

The first minimally invasive Ivor Lewis Esophagectomy surgery in North Queensland has been successfully performed on a patient at Mater Private Hospital Townsville.

Historically, esophagectomy surgery is one of the most invasive procedures performed with large incisions made in the patient’s abdomen and chest.

By contrast, the Ivor Lewis procedure involves keyhole surgery with small incisions and is only available in a handful of hospitals across Australia.

Former Cairns Mayor Kevin Byrne, 73, was the first patient to have the surgery at Mater Private Hospital Townsville after a 4cm tumour was found at the junction between his oesophagus and stomach during a gastroscopy in October last year.

Led by Mater surgeon Dr Scott Whiting, the two-stage procedure involved removing the lower oesophagus and top of the stomach, including draining lymph nodes.

A tube was made with part of the stomach that was later re-joined to the oesophagus.

Patients requiring this kind of surgery often present with tumours that cause symptoms such as difficulty swallowing, weight loss, pain, reflux (heartburn) and anaemia from bleeding.

Smoking, poorly controlled acid reflux and obesity are significant risk factors for oesophageal cancer.

After undergoing the all-day procedure, Mr Byrne said having access to this care in Townsville was a triumph for the people of North Queensland.

“Being able to travel from Cairns to Townsville to have this done is amazing,” Mr Byrne said.

“Otherwise, I would have had to travel to Brisbane and spend a lot more time recovering in hospital.

“This has been my biggest health scare by a country mile.

“My quality of life has been improved and my prognosis is a lot better now that I’ve had this surgery.”

Mr Byrne said he had experienced a severe bout of reflux during breakfast with friends which prompted him to seek medical advice.

“I was due for a six-month check up with my GP and already required a routine colonoscopy, and had a gastroscopy done at the same time,” he said.

“I knew something wasn’t right with how I was feeling.”

Dr Whiting said the minimally invasive procedure meant a faster recovery for patients.

“Recovering from incisions can take many months.  With a minimally invasive approach we can get most patients home in about one week with significantly less pain medication and a lower infection rate,” Dr Whiting said.

Mr Byrne is looking forward to returning home to Cairns to continue recovering.

Mater Private Hospital Townsville Executive Officer Libbie Linley said hundreds of North Queenslanders stood to benefit from the extensive training Dr Whiting undertook at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in the United Kingdom to become accomplished in the procedure.

“To perform these procedures, surgeons are required to develop their skills which are only found in specialist centres,” she said.

“This is a great outcome for patients who no longer have to travel out of North Queensland for the procedure, and they can feel confident receiving the highest possible standard of care in Townsville without having to be far away from their support network.”

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