Home   News   Article

Subscribe Now

Marathon surgery in Cambridge is life-saving feature of BBC Two’s Surgeons: At the Edge of Life





An operation which took an expert Cambridge surgical team an incredible two days to complete will be featured in the latest episode of BBC Two’s Surgeons: At the Edge of Life tonight (Thursday, December 2).

Colorectal consultant Nicola Fearnhead (53482233)
Colorectal consultant Nicola Fearnhead (53482233)

Addenbrooke’s Hospital’s colorectal consultant Nicola Fearnhead, consultant urologist Alex Colquhoun and their theatre colleagues are seen performing a rare pelvic exenteration, where all the organs in the pelvis need to be removed.

Their patient is father-of-two, Stuart, 52, who has widespread cancer. The procedure will involve removing his rectum, bladder, prostate, surrounding lymph nodes as well as a large tumour on his kidney.

Nicola and Alex must operate deep within Stuart’s pelvis. It’s high risk surgery because they need to operate near to the body’s biggest blood vessels – the aorta and inferior vena cava – and the major vessels that branch off them.

Consultant urologist Alex Colquhoun (53482221)
Consultant urologist Alex Colquhoun (53482221)

But even if they manage to clear the disease, they still have a second day of complicated reconstructive surgery ahead of them. The list of steps needed to succeed is so extensive, they are written on a giant white board.

Also featured is consultant neurosurgeon Alexis Joannides, who will be seen operating on the edge of what is possible.

He has the daunting task of removing a tumour the size of a small apple from the brain of 30 -year-old Adam, a manufacturing operative who is expecting his first child with partner Tasha in just a few weeks.

Consultant neurosurgeon Alexis Joannides (53482226)
Consultant neurosurgeon Alexis Joannides (53482226)

Adam’s problems started two months before when he began experiencing severe headaches that would not go away. Five weeks later, an optician’s appointment led to an immediate referral to A&E where doctors discovered a tumour most likely to be a glioblastoma, a particularly aggressive and life-threatening tumour.

Before surgery Adam will have a “pink drink” that contains the chemical 5 ALA, which causes tumour cells to fluoresce pink under UV light in the operating theatre. This will allow Alexis to tell the difference between tumour and healthy brain. But the first challenge is to find whether the drink has worked.

CUH divisional director for surgery and colorectal surgeon, James Wheeler, said: “This episode demonstrates that surgery is not only something that requires skill and experience – but incredible teamwork, courage, stamina and patience.

Consultant neurosurgeon Alexis Joannides (53482228)
Consultant neurosurgeon Alexis Joannides (53482228)

“I am incredibly proud of our surgeons and in awe of our patients, whose bravery and positivity is an inspiration to those who find themselves in similar positions.”

The fourth episode of Surgeons: At the Edge of Life will be on BBC Two tonight (Thursday, December 2) at 9pm.

Read more:

Surgeons: At the Edge of Life returns to Cambridge hospitals



This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More