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Mesothelioma Patients Undergo World’s First Robot-Assisted Surgery at University of Arizona

P_D Surgery Improves Life for Pleural Mesothelioma Patients

In 2010, Jonathan C. Daniel, MD, Thoracic Surgeon and Assistant Professor in the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the University of Arizona Department of Surgery began offering extrapleural pneumonectomy surgery for mesothelioma patients – the first for residents of southern Arizona. With the introduction of this surgery for mesothelioma, Daniel hoped to turn UA into the premier center for mesothelioma treatment in the Southwest.

Now, several years later, the center broke ground as the world’s first mesothelioma center to offer the surgeries using robots. Farid Gharagozloo, MD, professor and section chief of thoracic surgery, robotic cardiothoracic surgery and esophageal surgery, performed not one, but two successful robot-assisted extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) surgeries in January.

EPP is a radical procedure that involves removal of a lung, the diseased lining of the chest cavity and heart, and a portion of the diaphragm. EPP is somewhat controversial among mesothelioma specialists as many claim physicians should spare the lung through pleurectomy/decortication (P/D) surgery. P/D strips away the diseased membrane lining the lung and visible mesothelioma tumors, but does not involve removing the lung.

In a press release announcing the surgery, Dr. Gharagozloo said robotic-assisted surgery is a much safer operation than the standard EPP. He said the robot-assisted procedure dramatically reduces blood loss, shortens the hospital stay and lowers the risk of infection and death. In addition, use of the robot enables the lining of the chest to be pulled away fairly intact, improving the chances of removing all of the cancer.

“It is very clear that in the surgery of the chest, the robot is a game change,” he emphasizes.

One 67-year-old man who was operated on was diagnosed with mesothelioma and was prescribed palliative care by his initial medical team after they said there was no hope for recovery. After finding Dr Gharagozloo, the man is “back at home, puttering in his yard and planning a hunting trip this fall.”

“We want to change the story of mesothelioma,” Dr. Gharagozloo says of the work of his team.

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