New liver resection technique saves lives in Slovenia

Slovenia has gone a long way in the field of liver surgery, especially in liver resection - the removal of part of the organ by surgery. Only half a century ago, doctors almost always lost the battle with cancerous lesions and tumours of the liver. But now, as we report from Maribor, there is fresh hope for liver patients:

"Liver surgery has mainly developed in the last 50-60 years. It used to be very dangerous surgery because there are three vascular systems that fill the liver with blood, so operations and all procedures on the liver were very dangerous, because of the enormous blood loss."

Dr. Eldar Gadzijev heads the department of Abdominal and General Surgery at Maribor hospital. He spent years trying to find a way of operating on the liver without risking the patient's life. His efforts seem to have paid off. So, how is this "safe surgery" actually performed? The most crucial step is locating and controlling all the important vessels that enter and leave the liver. This ensures that there is practically no bleeding during the operation. Then an ultrasound examination is performed. After that the resection is done and the good news is: another part of the organ can be removed safely should the disease spread or a tumour reappear:

"Years ago many patients with liver tumours were practically left to die without any help. We have now experienced that we can re-operate on the liver again and again, even remove tumours several times just because of the capacity of the liver to regenerate."

In the hospital in Maribor, surgeons also operate on patients from abroad:

"Considering all the possibilities of after care, our patients can easily be sent home 5 to 7 days after the operation, which formerly was not the case. Also the rate of complications is diminished very much and so there is no such danger after the operation as there used to be."

Mrs. Jez is 75. Eight years ago, she was diagnosed with cancer. She went through treatment and seemed to have won her battle until doctors discovered that the disease had spread to her liver. In a desperate attempt to win this battle too, she decided to undergo liver resection:

"When you lose your partner, all you have is your family. My son has three children, who mean the world to me and I would love to share beautiful moments with them. I live for them and it means so much to me to stay healthy and be there for them. They give my life meaning."

Two weeks after the operation Mrs Jez feels good. Doctors are confident that she will be able to live a normal life.

"It was a good decision, very positive and definitely at the right time and the operation was successful, the doctors told me."

Thanks to the new surgery and postoperative care, 30-40% of the liver patients who have undergone resection can expect to remain healthy for at least five years.