Surgery in Melbourne to treat a rare stomach condition could be a game-changer

More than two years after a young man went to the ER for a stomach problem, the surgery could save a life, a specialist says.

Dr Tim Gormley from Melbourne’s Royal Melbourne Hospital says the procedure could be the first in Australia to be used in patients who have a rare and life-threatening condition called gastric bypass.

“This is one of the most difficult and complicated procedures in the world, it’s very rare,” Dr Gormly told 7.30.

“The surgery itself can be very painful, it involves an operation in the stomach and it can take weeks, months and even years to fully recover from.”

Dr Gormleys surgeon said the procedure was “the best surgery in the country” and was “absolutely the first of its kind”.

Dr Gromley says gastric surgeries were rarely done in the 1980s, and he has performed more than 100 in his career.

“They’re the best surgery I’ve ever done, they are very, very difficult, they can be life-changing and they are not done with anaesthetic,” he said.

Dr Gomley says the surgery would be the most challenging in the nation, but he has had success with other stomach surgeries in the past.

“I had a surgery in 2007 to remove an infection in my stomach that was very aggressive, it was very severe, but I had a pretty good outcome, so that was a very good example of it,” he told 7:30.

Dr Svetlana Lekova, a gastroenterologist at the Royal Melbourne Hospitals Department of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, says the patient had a rare type of ulcerative colitis, which is an inflammatory condition in the gut that is usually fatal.

“It’s one of those rare cases where they’re just a little bit too sensitive to the infection,” she said.

“You have to make an attempt to get it under control.

You have to treat it with antibiotics.”

Dr Lekovic said the gastric surgery would likely be a long and expensive process.

“Usually, it takes between four to eight weeks, so in that time you have to be careful that the patient is getting enough fluids and nutrients in the right places and that they are getting the right food,” she explained.

“That’s a very big thing, that’s what really pushes you forward and that’s really important in this case.”

Dr Jody Burt of the University of Queensland said gastric operations had been performed in Australia before, and in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“We had a gastric operation done in 1998 and it was done with a surgeon who had a very advanced understanding of gastric anatomy and what it means for people with ulceratives,” Dr Burt said.

But the surgeon was also an alcoholic and was in the process of getting a drink licence.

“So I think the fact that he had a history of alcohol abuse, it really made him feel very uncomfortable, he wasn’t very experienced with the procedure, and I think it was just a case of him not being very experienced,” Dr Lekovi said.

Gastric bypass surgery is currently not available in Australia.

The Royal Melbourne hospital said the operation was likely to be carried out by a gastro surgeon.

Topics:diseases-and-disorders,patients,gastroenterics-and/or-nutrition,horticulture,health,medical-research,disease-control,cancer,melbourne-3000,vic,australiaContact Tracey MatsonMore stories from Victoria

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