Video transcript

Aussie surgery technique brings bowel cancer relief

By Jessica Rich

National Nine News Health Watch - 31 August 2006

EXCLUSIVE: Bowel cancer is now the second biggest cancer killer in the country, with alarming statistics revealing around 90 Australians die from the cancer every week.

Up until now, doctors have had no option but the use "open abdominable surgery" to remove tumours. It's a long and painful operation with risks such as excess bleeding and scarring. Now a Sydney surgeon with some clever Aussie technology has resolved the problem using a technique called "hand assisted laparoscopic surgery".

Laparoscopic surgery refers to "keyhole" surgery. It avoids the large incision required for traditional "open" surgery, reducing pain, scarring and wound problems, and reduces the length of time required to stay in hospital.

In the past, the laparoscopic technique has not been widely used for operations on the bowel, partly because of the extreme technical difficulty involved. But Dr Simon Chew - based at the Sydney Bowel Bleeding Clinic at Sydney Private Hospital - has developed the technique using a device called the "handport". This allows the surgeon to place one hand inside the abdomen during the surgery ("hand-assisted laparoscopic surgery").

This simple device has greatly improved the safety and ease of the technique. As a result of this, laparoscopic bowel surgery can now be performed safely on any type of bowel disease, no matter how large or complex the problem.

The surgery is performed under general anaesthetic. First, the handport is inserted through a small incision above the pubic bone. An operating camera is inserted through a small cut in the umbilicus. Specialised thin operating instruments are then inserted through a few other small cuts around the abdomen to perform the surgery.

The camera allows all the surgery to be performed with a full close-up view. The surgeon's hand is present to control the blood vessels and identify the problem in the bowel. At the end of the surgery the diseased bowel is removed through the handport and the bowel ends are rejoined.

The exact details of the surgery will vary depending on the nature of the disease and any other health problems. However, laparoscopic surgery can now be used for all types of bowel problems, resulting in less pain and an easier post-operative recovery. For most operations the time in hospital will be only three to six days.

Dr Chew has begun teaching his new surgery techniques to top surgeons around the country.