Woman has stomach transformed to create new oesophagus in cutting-edge surgery

By Staff 6 Min Read

On BBC’s nail-biting series Surgeons: At the Edge of Life tonight, Monique has life-changing surgery to remove cancer in her oesophagus and create a new swallowing tube

Monique desperately needs to have the cancer in her oesophagus removed – but the op puts her life at risk.

BBC’s popular series Surgeons: At the Edge of Life is back for a sixth time and follows world-leading surgeons pushing science and the human body to its limits. In the third episode tonight, 67-year-old Monique requires an oesophagectomy to remove the advanced cancer in her oesophagus.

To potentially cure Monique, Professor Tim Underwood, who specialises in complex gastrointestinal surgery at the University of Southampton, will need to remove the cancerous section and then repurpose her stomach to create a new swallowing tube. But it’s an extremely challenging op for Tim.

You can view a clip of tonight’s episode below:

The section where the cancer sits is stuck to the aorta, the body’s biggest blood vessel, and also the pericardium, the membrane surrounding the heart. If Tim damages either, there could be fatal consequences for Monique. Even if he does manage to free the section of oesophagus, he must then shape the stomach into a new swallowing tube in her neck.

“This is just the time when a rupture of aortic wall could happen – and I have done it. I have once before made a hole, and it can be death,” Tim says in the clip of tonight’s ep. “If we make a big hole in the pericardium, there’s a risk the heart can permeate through that hole and get stuck. But it’s also really important that we get the cancer out.”

Elsewhere in the hospital, 67-year-old Sue needs her jaw rebuilt by maxillofacial consultant Sanjay Sharma, after cancer treatment caused a rare condition that damaged her blood vessels and left her bones crumbling. Sue has difficulty eating and speaking, but it’s not an easy fix. The operation is complex and problems develop along the way.

Sanjay is joined in theatre by three other surgeons to remove the dead bone and tissue, while at the same time, plastic surgeon Nigel Horlock works on Sue’s leg, cutting a skin flap and section of fibula bone for the reconstruction. But when issues occur with the blood flow through the vessel that’s needed to keep the flap alive, Sue’s surgery success hangs in the balance.

The University Hospital Southampton is one of the country’s leading medical centres and carries out over 34 thousand operations every year – many of which are the last hope for patients. Each episode of the BBC series follows leading surgeons taking calculated risks on people who desperately need lifesaving surgeries.

  • Surgeons: At the Edge of Life airs on BBC Two at 9pm tonight.

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