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World’s First Pediatric Laparoscopic Liver Surger

Mark Thomas, MD, an assistant professor and transplant surgeon at the University of Cincinnati (UC) is credited with performing the first pediatric laparoscopic liver// surgery. This procedure is a specialized surgery that removes tumors in the liver without first performing an incision. The operation was done on a 2-year-old boy with liver cancer at La Raza Pediatric Medical Hospital in Mexico City on May 24.

Liver cancer is rare in children--less than 150 cases are diagnosed each year compared to more than 18,000 in adults--so the disease often misdiagnosed as constipation, food intolerance or anorexia until it is in an advanced and difficult-to-treat stage.

This patient's symptoms had been dismissed as such for several months before physicians confirmed he had hepatoblastoma of the liver, a type of cancer that starts in the organ's cells (hepatocytes) and develops into one or multiple tumors. Thomas was invited to the La Raza Pediatric Medical Hospital to perform the patient's surgery and teach two lectures on the specialized minimally invasive procedure.

Laparoscopic (minimally invasive) surgery is a method of operating inside the abdomen through small, tube-like ports using a fiber-optic light source, camera and specialized instruments. Known as laparoscopic liver resection, this procedure requires incisions so small (about three-inches) that they leave only minimal scarring.

Two months post-surgery, the patient is doing well and is expected to have a full recovery after several additional rounds of chemotherapy.

Thomas says the procedure is a safe, effective alternative to traditional "open" surgery for liver cancer--which requires up to a 30-inch incision. It also is available for patients with advanced liver disease who cannot tolerate the standard operation. The minimally invasive laparoscopic approach is most often used to remove liver tumors and treat other liver diseases.

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