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Wound Technology Pays Off Twice

CancerWise - November 2008

By Dawn Dorsey

Steve Bayless

A few years ago, Steve Bayless bought some stock in an upstart biotechnology firm that brought him a handy profit when he sold it a few months later. Little did he know the company one day would play a major part in his recovery from a rare type of cancer.

After complex surgery to remove tumors caused by a type of appendix cancer called pseudomyxoma peritonei (PMP), Bayless was left with a 13-inch incision wound reaching from his bladder to his breastbone. Then, he suffered a wound infection that required his entire incision be opened.

To help the healing process progress faster and more smoothly, Bayless’ medical team used wound vacuum-assisted closure (Wound V.A.C.®). This technology is manufactured by the company Bayless held stock in years before.

With Wound V.A.C., a foam surface dressing is applied and sealed with a plastic tape-like sheet. A pump applies negative pressure to the wound, removing fluids and other materials that might enable infection to progress. It maintains optimum moisture level for healing, draws the edges of the wound together and, most importantly, encourages more rapid growth of new blood vessels.

Tumor growth is dangerous

Tumors in the appendix often produce mucus in the abdominal cavity, causing what is termed the pseudomyxoma peritonei syndrome. The tumors can reseed and spread throughout the abdomen. If they are left untreated, they will grow and can compress the abdominal organs and the lungs, as well as lead to obstruction of the intestines.

In 2007, Bayless, now 69, was on vacation in Colorado when he felt a pain that he thought might be appendicitis, but it lasted only about 10 minutes. He shrugged it off and promptly forgot about it.

Several months later, when Bayless had a case of diverticulitis (a digestive disorder caused by inflammation of diverticula, or weaknesses, in the wall of the colon – similar to a hernia) his doctor suggested a colonoscopy.

Ruptured appendix caused pain

“My doctor said something was wrong, and he didn’t like what he saw in the colonoscopy,” Bayless says. “There were several tumors pushing on the colon, but he didn’t know the source. So we did more tests, including a computed tomography (CT) scan.”

His doctor suspected the tumors were secondary (originated elsewhere in the body). Exploratory surgery showed Bayless’ appendix had ruptured previously and had sealed over, but not before releasing tumor cells into the abdomen. Of course, he immediately remembered the few minutes of pain in Colorado the year before.

“This cancer is so rare that my oncologist had seen it only once in his career,” Bayless says. “So he sent me to M. D. Anderson where they have specialists in this disease.”

Technology and family made the difference

Before the surgery, Paul Mansfield, M.D., a professor in M. D. Anderson’s Department of Surgical Oncology, explained the extensive surgery and lengthy recovery process.

“When he told me about the Wound V.A.C., I started laughing,” Bayless says. “He was pretty surprised I knew about it.”

During his extensive surgery and recovery, Bayless had a great deal of support from family members. His brother, a retired obstetrician and gynecologist who lives in Oregon, and his sister-in-law drove their recreational vehicle to Houston and checked into a park close to the Texas Medical Center. Bayless and his wife brought their RV from Dallas and parked there as well.

Device sped healing

The surgery, one of the most complex procedures performed at
M. D. Anderson, lasted 11 hours. Surgeons removed numerous tumors from Bayless’ abdomen. They also removed his gallbladder, spleen, portions of the lining of his diaphragm and two parts of his intestines. Bayless’ recovery required him to remain at M. D. Anderson for six weeks.

He’s making music again

When Bayless was released, he was given a portable Wound V.A.C. that worked on rechargeable batteries. Sponge changes were required three times a week. When the unit was removed three months later, the wound was almost completely healed.

Now Bayless is back to normal. This means he’s playing the tuba and string bass in several bands and conducting an 18-piece string orchestra.

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© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center