Two-day operation to feature in episode four of TV series

Nicola Fearnhead is a colorectal consultant at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.

Nicola Fearnhead is a colorectal consultant at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge. - Credit: CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS

An operation which took an expert surgical team in Cambridgeshire an incredible two days to complete will be featured in BBC Two’s ‘Surgeons: At the Edge of Life’ on Thursday (December 2). 

Addenbrooke’s colorectal consultant Nicola Fearnhead, and consultant urologist Alex Colquhoun are seen performing a rare pelvic exenteration in the fourth episode, where all organs in the pelvis need to be removed. 

Addenbrooke's consultant urologist, Alex Colquhoun will feature in the fourth episode.

Addenbrooke's consultant urologist, Alex Colquhoun will feature in the fourth episode. - Credit: CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS

Their patient is 52-year-old father of two, Stuart, who has widespread cancer. 

The procedure involves removing his rectum, bladder, prostate, surrounding lymph nodes as well as a large tumour on his kidney. 

Nicola and Alex must operate deep within Stuart’s pelvis. It’s high-risk surgery as they need to operate near to the body’s biggest blood vessels - the aorta and inferior vena cava - and the major vessels that branch off them. 

If they manage to clear the disease, they still have a second day of complicated reconstructive surgery ahead of them.  

Nicola Fearnhead is a colorectal consultant at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.

Nicola Fearnhead is a colorectal consultant at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge. - Credit: CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS

Addenbrooke's consultant urologist, Alex Colquhoun will feature in the fourth episode.

Addenbrooke's consultant urologist, Alex Colquhoun will feature in the fourth episode. - Credit: CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS

CUH divisional director for surgery and colorectal surgeon, James Wheeler, said: “This episode demonstrates that surgery is not only something that requires skill and experience – but incredible teamwork, courage, stamina and patience."

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In another theatre, consultant neurosurgeon Alexis Joannides is also operating on the edge of what is possible. 

He has the daunting task of removing a tumour the size of a small apple from the brain of 30 -year-old Adam, a manufacturing operative who is expecting his first child with partner Tasha in just a few weeks. 

Addenbrooke's consultant neurosurgeon Alexis Joannides will feature in the fourth episode.

Addenbrooke's consultant neurosurgeon Alexis Joannides will feature in the fourth episode. - Credit: CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS

Addenbrooke's consultant neurosurgeon Alexis Joannides will feature in the fourth episode.

Addenbrooke's consultant neurosurgeon Alexis Joannides will feature in the fourth episode. - Credit: CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS

Adam will have a “pink drink” before surgery that contains the chemical 5 ALA, which causes tumour cells to fluoresce pink under UV light in the operating theatre.  

This will allow Alexis to tell the difference between tumour and healthy brain. 

But as Alexis calls for the theatre lights to be dimmed and he switches on the UV, the first challenge is to find whether the drink has worked.

“I am incredibly proud of our surgeons and in awe of our patients, whose bravery and positivity is an inspiration to those who find themselves in similar positions,” said James. 

Nicola Fearnhead is a colorectal consultant at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.

Nicola Fearnhead is a colorectal consultant at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge. - Credit: CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS

Nicola Fearnhead is a colorectal consultant at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge.

Nicola Fearnhead is a colorectal consultant at Addenbrooke's Hospital in Cambridge. - Credit: CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY HOSPITALS


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