Cutting-edge lung cancer procedure is world first

Posted on in Hospitals, Services

Like most cancer patients, Graham Smith was very worried about having major surgery to remove the cancer from his right lung, and wanted to make sure he was receiving the most advanced treatment available.

As a patient at The James Cook University Hospital, Graham learned about a new surgical procedure the hospital was the first in the world to offer. The cutting-edge technique, called microlobectomy, was pioneered by Joel Dunning, a thoracic surgeon at the hospital, to reduce the invasive nature of the procedure and help patients recover faster from lung cancer surgery.

Graham Smith at home“When someone tells you have cancer, it’s the end – just for that short time, then Mr Dunning pulls you right out again,” said Graham. “He was keen to get in there and get it out. The quickness of my recovery after major surgery was marvellous.”

Microlobectomy is an advanced minimally invasive surgical procedure for the removal of cancerous lung tissue. The procedure requires the use of tiny 5mm incisions between the ribs, and a small incision below the ribs. Traditional procedures use incisions that are twice as large or larger between the ribs, and are much more painful – requiring much longer recovery times.

“I expected to be a lot more disabled – I’m amazed,” said Graham. “I’ve successfully returned to my basic lifestyle and it gets better every day – the lack of pain is brilliant.”

Microlobectomy reduces patient pain, accelerates recovery and allows patients like Graham to go home from the hospital sooner. According to a study presented by Mr Dunning to the world’s largest gathering of cardiothoracic surgeons in Barcelona, 22% of microlobectomy patients go home one day after their procedure and 42% go home on the second day.Joel Dunning in surgery

“When I came here in 2012, the average length of stay for lung cancer patients was seven days,” said Mr Dunning. “Now, with this new technique, the average length of stay is three days.”

Among many advances in surgical tools to enable less invasive procedures, a new surgical tool called the MicroCutter 5/80 helped make Graham’s procedure possible. The MicroCutter is the smallest-profile and most manoeuvrable stapler available today, roughly the size of a pencil.

“Its 5mm size makes it beautifully attuned for this innovative and new approach for treating lung cancer patients,” said Mr Dunning. “The device is able to turn up to 80 degrees, virtually at right angles, which is fantastic for working in the tight confines of a patient’s chest.”