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Faster liver cancer surgery

London, Nov. 4 (Reuters): A new surgical technique that reduces bleeding during liver cancer surgery could reduce operating time and eliminate the need for transfusions, doctors said today.

Removing cancerous tumours in the liver is a very complicated and dangerous operation. Patients can lose between two and 20 pints of blood and they usually remain in hospital for two weeks afterwards.

But surgeons at Hammersmith Hospital and Imperial College in London have devised a new surgical method using high-frequency energy waves that form a seal around the area of the liver being removed to cut the amount of bleeding.

“Blood loss is commonplace in liver surgery at the moment. This new operating technique could lead to a new era and a novel way of operating on patients with liver cancer,” Nagy Habib, the head of liver surgery at Hammersmith Hospital, said.

Tests of the technique on 40 patients with liver tumours showed blood loss was minimal and no transfusions were needed. None of the patients died and recovery time in hospital was cut to about eight days.

In a follow-up period of up to 20 months after surgery there was no local recurrence of the tumours, according to the research which was published in the journal Annals of Surgery.

Heat from the radiofrequency waves delivered to the tumour through an electrode cause cells around the tumour to dehydrate and form a seal. When the tumour is removed there is little blood loss and no need for staples, ties or sutures, Nagy said.

”Radiofrequency is easy and safe and offers a new method for transfusion-free liver operations,” he added.

Surgery is the main treatment for primary liver cancer but it is not always possible and depends on the position and size of the tumour.

Liver cancer is a major illness in developing countries with most cases linked to infection with hepatitis B. It is more common in men than women.

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