Three Zimbabwean cardiothoracic surgeons on Tuesday teamed up with a colleague from Spain and successfully carried out an extensive uniportal video assisted thoracic surgery (VATS), the first of its kind in the country.

The surgery which benefited three patients – two at Parirenyatwa Hospital and one at the Avenues Clinic – was carried out by a team made up of Professor Diego Gonzales Rivas from Spain and three local surgeons, namely Dr Kudzai Kanyepi, Dr Simukai Machawira and Dr Wilfred Mutewere.

VATS is a minimally invasive surgical technique where incisions are made in the chest through one of which a thoracoscope, which is a long thin tube with a camera and light at the end, is inserted, allowing the surgeon to view the thoracic cavity inside the chest on a video screen.

Normally at least two other incisions are made through which the surgeon inserts surgical instruments to carry out the operation, guided by what can be seen on the video screen.

What makes Tuesday’s operations unique is the extent of the surgery and the fact that there was only a single small incision of about three to five centimetres made, Dr Kanyepi, the country’s only woman cardiothoracic surgeon, explained.

In one case a whole lung was removed through a single small incision. In another a malignant tumour behind the sternum known as a thymoma was removed.

The operation at the Avenues Clinic was on a 40-year-old mother of three boys to remove the lower lobe of one of her lungs where there was a cancerous growth.

The operations were carried out at the end of a two-day International Uniportal VATS Masterclass programme conducted by the University of Zimbabwe. Doctors participating in the programme came from several countries, including Morocco, Libya, Uganda, Somalia, Kenya, Botswana and South Africa.

Apart from the surgical team carrying out the operations, other foreign and local doctors in attendance participated in the training programme.

Dr Kanyepi said all three patients were up and walking around the day after their operation.

The patients were operated on free of charge. One of the major sponsors of the programme was Cimas Health Group, which provided US$3 000 for the exercise.

Cimas Health Group’s chief medical officer, Dr Nyasha Masuka, said Cimas was particularly pleased to sponsor the programme.

 “We are particularly proud of the fact that one of the beneficiaries of this sponsorship, Dr Kanyepi, should have not only become the nation’s first female cardiothoracic surgeon but played a major role in arranging and carrying out these historic operations,” he said.

Dr Kanyepi said there are plans to make the programme an annual event where surgeons from across the continent are trained to carry out live surgery. — NewsDay

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