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HomeNewsArchivesFirst Kidney Operation of its Kind Performed in V.I.

First Kidney Operation of its Kind Performed in V.I.

Jan. 21, 2005 – For the first time in the U.S. Virgin Islands, RLSH medical staff performed an operation this week that removed a patient's kidney with a "harmonic scapel," a device that reduces bleeding during the operation and causes less damage to tissue.
St. Thomas urologist Dr. John Franklin and Dr. Gilberto Ruiz Deya from Ponce, Puerto Rico were the first surgeons in the territory to perform a "laparoscopic nephrectomy," (pronounced NA-FREK-TOE-MEE) or removal of a kidney, on Tuesday, Jan. 18. They also performed a second operation using the harmonic scapel to repair another patient's kidney blockage.
A nephrectomy is the most common treatment for kidney cancer. Standard surgery to remove a kidney requires an incision in the abdomen, and laparoscopic surgery uses a small video-telescope so the surgeon can view the entire abdominal cavity and kidney during surgery. While the Schneider Hospital uses laparoscopic surgery in many cases, this is the first time it was performed to remove a kidney, and the first time a harmonic scapel was used.
"For the surgeon, it's a more efficient tool for sealing off blood vessels, cutting through the tissue and preventing excessive blood loss," said Dr. Frank Odlum, RLSH Chief of Surgery. "The patient receives benefit because laparoscopy reduces discomfort, decreases hospital stays, and has more pleasing cosmetic results since it causes less scarring."
Another unique property of the harmonic scalpel is that it uses ultrasound vibration (rather than electrical energy) to perform precise cutting, dissection and sealing of tissues. The harmonic scalpel is manufactured by Ethicon Endo-Surgery, Inc., a division of Johnson & Johnson that specializes in producing surgical instruments used for minimally invasive surgery.
Dr. Franklin, who completed his two-year fellowship in urologic oncology at the UCLA School of Medicine, said both operations performed Tuesday showed that the Virgin Islands community can expect cutting-edge services in urology right here in the territory.
"Laparoscopic kidney surgeries cannot replace open surgeries for kidney tumors and other pathologies, but it is now one of the standard approaches for patients who qualify for the procedure," Dr. Franklin said.
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