Campus & Community

Brigham and Women’s Hospital to launch its first live web surgery program:

2 min read

First webcast will demonstrate innovative cancer procedure

For the first time, surgeons at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) will broadcast cutting-edge surgeries over the Web, in an effort to familiarize doctors with new surgical techniques and to inform the general public about medical advances.

Doctors from other hospitals and medical schools, along with the general public, will be able to log on to the BWH Web site to view the surgery and submit questions in real time. The operating surgeon will be Associate Professor of Surgery at the Medical School Ronald Bleday, who is also chief of the colorectal section in the BWH Department of Surgery. The procedure will be narrated by Moseley Professor of Surgery Michael Zinner, surgeon-in-chief at BWH.

“As a large academic medical center and one of the best hospitals in the country, we decided to launch the Webcast program because there are surgeries that are performed here that are simply not done at most hospitals,” said Zinner. “Our hope is to educate doctors and the public about new procedures and technologies that offer patients better treatment options.”

The first Webcast will be a specialized rectal cancer surgery known as a Total Mesorectal Excision (TME). During the procedure, surgeons will dissect and remove the cancerous area of the rectum, including the fatty regions where the lymph nodes are located. The surgery is considered innovative because, unlike other similar surgeries for rectal cancer, Bleday will be using nerve- and sphincter-sparing techniques. Other resection techniques often result in the patient becoming dependent on a permanent colostomy bag.

TME patients have also been shown to have lower recurrence rates, lower levels of incontinence and impotence, and better overall survival rates compared to other resection techniques. Many doctors suggest that, for patients with locally advanced rectal cancer, TME should be considered first before other treatments.

“This kind of procedure underscores why we have chosen to host these Web-based educational forums,” said Zinner. “This is a surgery that has yet to be widely adopted, but the results hold so much promise for certain cancer patients that we feel it’s important to share our expertise in this area with other doctors, and the public.”

During the Webcast, the operating theater will be staffed with two camera teams. Those viewing the procedure will be able to query Zinner about the surgery and the disease, and will be able to hear him describe the procedure.