Related story: Patients of all ages
In her head, Cathy Helminiak knew that her MD Anderson team could bring her through a complex surgery and long recovery from a chondrosarcoma in her right hip joint.
But it was Helminiak’s heart, filled with the prospect of grandchildren, that finally moved her to commit to it.
Teamwork essential to rare surgery
Two years ago, Valerae Lewis, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Surgical Oncology and chief of Orthopaedic Oncology, launched the Multidisciplinary Pelvic Sarcoma Surgery Program.
This entity formally brought together a group of specialized surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses, technicians and rehabilitation specialists, creating a single go-to team for patients who face hemipelvectomies. Together, the team performs all of MD Anderson’s 30 to 50 cases per year.
Lewis says the formalized program has brought a new dimension of collegiality, communication and calm to the operating room. For the patient, the cohesion has reduced time under anesthesia and in the Intensive Care Unit after surgery. A prospective study is underway to determine how the dedicated team ultimately influences outcomes.
“Hemipelvectomies are complicated surgeries for our patients, but they also are physically and mentally tough for the entire surgical team,” Lewis says. “With a designated team that works together frequently, a patient can have great confidence in a team that has great confidence in each other.”