Groundbreaking surgery removes all abdominal organs to get at cancer

In groundbreaking surgery a patient has had all of the organs in the abdomen temporarily removed so surgeons could operate on a cancerous tumour.

In an unprecedented procedure surgeon Dr. Tomoaki Kato removed a patient's stomach, pancreas, spleen, liver and small and large intestines in order to get to the tumour, which was buried deep in the abdomen.

The operation on a 63-year-old Florida woman Brooke Zepp took place earlier this month; the 5 cm tumour was wrapped around Zepp's aorta and the base of two other arteries and threatened to kill her within months; she had a rare form of cancer called leiomyosarcoma.

Zepp had previously endured a combination of chemotherapy and radiation to kill the cancer at other medical centers, but the treatments did not work.

Once the organs in the abdomen were removed they were chilled and preserved outside Zepp's body during the 15-hour operation at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center.

Once the tumour and its blood supply was removed, the diseased blood vessels were then replaced with artificial ones made of Gore-Tex and the organs were re-implanted in their normal position.

Dr. Kato says never before have six organs been removed from a patient's abdomen to allow doctors to attack a malignant growth previously considered inoperable because of its location.

Japanese trained Kato, says it was a very tricky operation even though pieces of this surgery have been done many times.

Dr. Kato is an 11-year veteran of the University of Miami Transplant Institute who led the team of doctors that operated on Zepp and he says the operation was one of the most challenging ones of his career.

The surgery took place three weeks ago and Dr. Kato, says the patient is doing "great" so far and is considered cured at this point, but only time will prove its long-term efficacy.

Dr. Kato says no anti-rejection drugs were needed as the patient received the same organs that were removed.

Zepp is expected to be discharged from her Miami hospital this week.

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