The newspaper of Imperial College London
 Issue 123, 13 November 2002
Web draws in Newton's magic«
Bond is back (with a little help from Imperial)«
From punk to podium«
Bloodless surgery helps save lives«
Light-activated therapy wins entrepreneurship competition«
Merger proposal - How you can have your say«
Radical changes in the countryside«
Royal Society of Chemistry prize«
Commemoration Day pride«
Students' roll of honour«
In brief«
Media spotlight«
What's on«

Bloodless surgery helps save lives

ROAD traffic accident victims face a better chance of survival due to a revolutionary technique developed by Imperial College and the Hammersmith hospital.

Designed to help remove cancerous tumours in the liver, the novel technique involves virtually no blood loss by using radio frequency energy to create a seal around the area of the liver to be removed. Invaluable to patients with liver cancers, the technique is also being applied to accident victims suffering massive blood loss from the spleen.

"People in car accidents often get hit in the stomach," explained Mr Nagy Habib, head of liver surgery at the Hammersmith campus. "Both liver and spleen are vascular and start bleeding immediately. When a patient has a ruptured spleen it will keep bleeding, is very difficult to stitch, and to save the life, the surgeon is faced with removing it completely.

"However, removing the organ responsible for maintaining the immune system leads to vulnerability to infection and the need to take antibiotics for life. With the radio frequency heat ablation procedure, which makes a safe passage for us to cut around the tumour, we can stop the bleeding, conserve the spleen and the immune system stays intact."

The technique was successfully tested by Mr Habib and his colleagues on one middle aged man whose spleen ruptured during a road traffic accident . More than 60 patients suffering from liver tumours have benefitted from the technique, highlighted in American journal, Annals of Surgery.

The technique's break through is in reducing the time it takes to seal the area and stop bleeding. High frequency energy waves, delivered through an electrode placed in normal liver tissue around the tumour, heat cells causing them to dehydrate and form the seal in just 40 seconds.

Mr Habib recently trained liver specialists in Paris, Germany and Italy who have now completed 45 operations using the procedure. Next month, he travels to the USA to lecture and assist in an operation using the method.

"We can save the NHS £6,000 per patient as this procedure cuts operating time and the need for blood transfusions – any amount up to 20 pints is lost during surgery to remove liver tumours,"he added. "Also, intensive care units aren't required and there are fewer post-operative complications because of the reduced surgical impact on the patient therefore leading to shorter hospital stay and earlier discharge.

"At a time when the NHS is in crisis for skilled consultants, we can cut down the years needed for training a liver specialist as this is an easy technique to teach.

"We now need research money to develop the technique further so it can be used around organs other than the liver and spleen."

  • Professor Chris Toumazou and Glenn Vandervoode, department of bioengineering, are currently developing a hand held scalpel which if successful would allows the surgeon to perform the liver resection more quickly.
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