Health

At Cedar Rapids hospital, surgery for cancer patients one of first of its kind in Iowa

Dr. Tyrone Galbreath, a cardiothoracic surgeon at the Physicians' Clinic of Iowa. (Photo courtesy of the Physicians' Cli
Dr. Tyrone Galbreath, a cardiothoracic surgeon at the Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa. (Photo courtesy of the Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa.)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Dr. Tyrone Galbreath, a cardiothoracic surgeon at the Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa, recently began offering a new type of minimally invasive surgery to patients at UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids.

The minimally invasive esophagectomy, or removal of the esophagus for patients diagnosed with esophageal cancer, was first performed on a St. Luke’s patient in December. The procedure is one of the first being offered in an Iowa-based hospital.

The six-hour surgery is performed using laparoscopic instruments in four or five small incisions in the abdominal wall and the chest.

A traditional esophagectomy would require a large incision in the belly and another incision in the chest. An average patient stays a week in the hospital after this type of surgery, and typically takes a month to fully recover.

Galbreath said this minimally invasive procedure, while a new service for Cedar Rapids patients, underscores a larger trend nationwide of moving more surgical services toward minimally invasive procedures.

Galbreath, who joined PCI in September, is a graduate of Des Moines University’s medical school and received fellowship training in cardiothoracic surgery at the University of Mississippi in Jackson.

Q: What is the goal of minimally invasive surgeries?

A: The goal of minimally invasive surgery is to perform the same quality of surgery that would be performed in an open fashion but using smaller incisions with the intention of helping patients recover much quicker and having less postoperative restrictions.

Q: How does that impact a patient?

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A: The idea is to make them more functional at an earlier postoperative stage. For the sake of cancer patients, the idea is if they have less time to heal, they can return to whatever therapy they need once they’re done with their recovery. Some people benefit from less scars and less issues that way. It allows for better cosmesis. And the functionality aspect, these people have less pain, less chronic pain and less pain issues following the surgery.

Q: Has this surgery become more common in recent years?

A: I think it’s been a long time coming in the sense that it’s been something that has traditionally been offered at universities and large-volume centers, so to speak, but I think it’s finally starting to trickle more into local communities. I think it’s a good benefit that physicians who have graduated recently that their surgical training has included some component of minimally invasive surgery. For me, it was included in general surgery and thoracic surgery training. It’s all been adding up with realizing what patients want and what referring doctors want and what the community wants.

Q: Why did you want to offer this surgery for your patients?

A: It was a purposeful decision because I believe that’s where the future of surgery in general, and certainly thoracic surgery, is going. To be able to stay modern and stay current with new cancer care is important. And not just cancer care, but thoracic surgery and thoracic pathology care is the idea. Through my training, I think I’ve empowered myself toward that goal of keeping that approach for any patient I think would benefit from that.

Q: How many minimally invasive surgeries have you performed at PCI?

A: For esophagectomies, I’ve performed three. In total, there’s been around 30-40 patients who received other kinds of minimally invasive surgeries.

Q: How are those patients doing?

A: Majority of patients I would say they enjoyed all of those benefits (of this procedure). The traditional thought was that patients in a year (post-operation) don’t know the difference between a larger incision and a smaller incision, which may be true, but a year is a long time if there’s discomfort or you don’t like the result of your scar or those sort of things. But in general, patients have done very well. I’m certainly very pleased and plan to continue offering that.

Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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