March 10, 2009 / 9:17 PM / 11 years ago

Girl survives after six organs removed in surgery

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - A seven-year-old girl was released from hospital on Tuesday after a ground-breaking 23-hour operation four weeks ago in which doctors took out six of her organs to remove a cancerous tumor in her abdomen.

Heather McNamara, from Long Island, New York, is believed to be the first child and only the second person in the world to have the surgery known as auto-transplant, her doctors said.

McNamara’s pancreas, liver, spleen, stomach and small and large intestines were taken out and put in ice-cold temperatures so doctors could take out the cancerous growth.

“Her tumor had been called inoperable and surgery was thought to be impossible,” Dr. Herbert Pardes, the president of New York Presbyterian Hospital told a news conference.

Lead surgeon Dr. Tomoaki Kato said the tumor was in the abdomen and pancreas and tangled with two major blood vessels. In order to remove it, a team of seven surgeons and eight clinicians removed six organs, but they were unable to replace the pancreas, spleen and stomach.

The tumor could not be treated with chemotherapy or standard surgical techniques.

“She was really sick, she had fluid in the belly,” he said. “She was at risk of major bleeding.”

McNamara told reporters she felt “good” and was looking forward to returning home and to “play with my dog Angel and with my sister.”

Because it is impossible to survive without a stomach Kato created a pouch in her body to hold food before it moves to the small intestine.

“Medicine increasingly, despite the challenge, can provide hope for people who are facing major illnesses,” said Pardes.

Kato performed the first auto-transplant operation on a Florida woman who had six organs removed and replaced last year.

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