Southampton surgeons honoured for developing keyhole lung cancer surgery in the UK

Khalid Amer and Ali Zamir Khan

Two Southampton surgeons who contributed to the development of keyhole surgery to treat early stage lung cancer have been internationally commended for their work.

Consultant thoracic surgeons Khalid Amer and Ali Zamir Khan have spent the past four years developing a technique known as video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) lobectomy at Southampton General Hospital.

The process involves making three small skin incisions through which a camera and operating instruments are placed into the chest to enable the surgeon to remove the cancerous part of the lung.

VATS lobectomy is an operation performed by only a minority of surgeons in the UK due to the intricate skills required. Whereas removing lymph nodes is practised by open operation in other UK thoracic units, the technique of removing lymph nodes by keyhole surgery was developed in Southampton.

Mr Amer and Mr Khan have advocated use of this method as it reduces pain, hospital stay, overall recovery time and shortens the time needed to return to work. The surgeons also believe that VATS is the perfect option for patients of 80 years and above, proving just as safe for them as for younger patients.

Survival rate among those who undergo keyhole is better than the rate for invasive surgery, with records showing 70% of patients living three years after their operation compared to a rate of around 64% for open surgery.

The results of their study, which began in April 2005, have been presented in national and international conferences and recently published in the International Society for Minimally Invasive Surgery (ISMIS) journal Innovations.

Mr Amer and Mr Khan also presented their findings to some of the world’s top medics at the ISMIS conference in California last month, where they both received awards for their involvement in the project.

“Until now, many institutions have been afraid to fully adopt this modern way of performing surgery due to fears of the effectiveness and safety as a cancer operation, but long term results show it has the same – if not better – results, with many added advantages,” Mr Khan said.

Mr Amer said removing lymph nodes during VATS lobectomy proved to be safe and effective in understanding the stages of lung cancer. 

“Removing surrounding lymph nodes at the same time as removing the lung cancer provides us with the best and most accurate information to decide whether or not a patient needs to follow the surgery with chemotherapy to improve their chances of survival, and to predict how the patient is likely to progress.“

Posted on Monday 20 July 2009