Cut above for girl, nine, in cancer first

Local | Jane Cheung 23 Jul 2019

A nine-year-old liver cancer patient underwent Hong Kong's first-ever pediatric liver tumor removal surgery using a laparoscope at Queen Mary Hospital.

The surgery significantly reduced the size of the girl's wound in comparison to a conventional liver procedure, which decreased the risks of complications and aided in facilitating her recovery.

Kenneth Wong Kak-yuen, surgical chief of the hospital, said using a laparoscope for a pediatric liver tumor removal procedure is rare, as it has only been recorded in four English medical papers so far.

It is because liver cancer in children is uncommon and such procedures must be done by highly skilled doctors, as a pediatric laparoscopy is among the most difficult laparoscope surgeries.

He said a laparoscope was first used for liver removal surgery in 1991.

"In conventional procedures, doctors need to open a large wound measuring over 10 centimeters across the whole abdomen," he said. "Such a large wound may damage muscles or nerves underneath, causing the patient to suffer from severe pain, which could often last for months."

However, laparoscope procedures only leave several wounds measuring less than 10 millimeters and one cut that spans three centimeters.

Wong said the girl, who weighs 28 kilograms and was 128 centimeters tall, was diagnosed with liver cancer after a body check revealed that her liver was not functioning normally.

"Computer scans showed a tumor measuring 3.8 by five centimeters was attached to the right of her liver," he said.

He said the girl underwent the surgery on March 28, and doctors successfully managed to remove her tumor tissues within three hours.

"Apart from the wound being much smaller, studies have proven minimally invasive surgeries including using laparoscopes to be effective in shortening the recovery period," he said. "Patients can eat, move around and even be discharged from the hospital within a much shorter period of time."

Wong said the girl was able to eat after the surgery and only had to stay in the pediatric intensive care unit for one night.

"She could leave her bed and walk around the next day. She was discharged six days after the surgery and returned to school after two weeks," he said.

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