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North Shore Private Hospital team replaces man’s large tumour with a 3D-printed chest implant

November 04, 2021

Groundbreaking surgery to remove a rockmelon-sized tumour, that was wedged between a man’s ribs and sitting critically close to his spine, has been successfully completed at North Shore Private Hospital.

The marathon 23-hour procedure was performed over two days by a team of five consultant surgeons, led by cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Michael Harden, and two anaesthetists.  

Dr Harden said multiple complications made planning the surgery for 54-year-old David Rashleigh particularly challenging - and a 3D chest implant was required to save his life. 

“The tumour itself was enormous, between 25 and 30 centimeters and it seemed to be attached to his chest wall, and it’s that position that made it very difficult. It was in his back, nestled between three ribs and sitting very close to his aorta so we needed spinal surgeon Dr Randolph Gray to help take off part of his spine and remove the tumour, right in the region where the spinal cord sits,” Dr Harden said. 

“In planning this surgery we realised the problem after we remove a defect like that, is we can’t just leave a cavity the size of a rockmelon. To save his chest from caving in after surgery, we engineered a 3D-printed, customised chest cavity because we needed to have a unique way of securing the implant to the spine,” he said. 

Dr Harden said Mr Rashleigh’s treatment was particularly groundbreaking, given the rare nature of his tumour (a solitary fibrous pleural tumour), the multiple days it took to complete the surgery, and the size of the surgical teams involved. 

“I’ve never done anything like it, we had to keep repositioning the patient on the table, from his side to his stomach and then back onto his side. The implant itself was very unique and I think it’s amazing that we can do it here in Australia, using Australian technology. This was a very personalised surgery, nothing off the shelf,” Dr Harden said. 

Ahead of the marathon procedure, Mr Rashleigh recalled the moment his tumour was diagnosed - after he went to his GP complaining of stomach pain. 

"I initially had an abdominal CT scan and they noticed some shading in the lung area. I then had a chest CT and a PET scan which revealed the true nature of the tumour. I was extremely fortunate that this was picked up just in time. Despite being large, aggressive and invasive, it had produced minimal symptoms at the point of diagnosis,” Mr Rashleigh said. 

Chief Executive Officer Richard Ryan said North Shore Private Hospital was proud to provide the team, facilities and the time needed to make Mr Rashleigh’s surgery possible. It was a great collaborative effort from all medical, nursing and allied health staff to support Mr Rashleigh and provide him the care required. 

“The whole Ramsay philosophy of people caring for people has really shone through, with all the surgeons, theatre teams, facilities and implant engineers working together to provide the best outcome for Mr Rashleigh,” Mr Ryan said. 

The North Shore Private Hospital surgical team included: 

  • 2 x cardiothoracic teams - led by Dr Michael Harden and Dr Manu Mathur 
  • Spinal team - led by Dr Randolph Gray 
  • Plastics team - Dr Bishoy Soliman & Dr Shane O’NeilL 
  • 2 x anaesthetists - Dr Michael King, Dr Dev Jayram 
  • Nursing and allied health 

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