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World pioneering technique developed by a Catalan hospital removes two tumours without surgery

For the first time in the world, Barcelona’s Vall d’Hebron Hospital removes two tumours through the body’s natural holes without the support of laparoscopy. This technique allows the patient to recover much quicker, since there are no external wounds to cicatrise. They have successfully removed a colon tumour and a stomach one, from two different patients who had recovered without complications.


27 October 2012 12:05 AM


ACN / María Belmez

Barcelona (ACN).- The Vall d\u2019Hebron Hospital, located in Barcelona, has succeeded in removing tumours using only the human body\u2019s natural holes, without the need for laparoscopy assistance. The surgeons entered the body only through the natural holes, extracted the tumours through them and applied a continuous suture from the inside, without the need for external wounds. This means that there is no need to open the patient up, or to perform micro incisions for the laparoscopic tools, as  has been used until now. It is the first time ever that such a technique has been successful as it has never been achieved previously anywhere in the world. The Catalan medical team managed to remove a colon tumour from one patient and a stomach tumour from another. In fact, both patients assisted at the technique\u2019s public presentation on Friday in Barcelona, in the Vall d\u2019Hebron Hospital, which is part of the public Catalan Healthcare System. Both patients had recovered and were fully satisfied with the process and their quick recovery without complications. Thanks to this world pioneering technique, surgery is less aggressive, the patient\u2019s skin and muscles do not have to cicatrise and therefore the recovery process is smoother and faster.

The first patient underwent surgery more than a year ago, in July 2011, for a malignant polyp in the colon. The second patient underwent the operation last September, for a sub-mucosal tumour in the stomach. Both patients assisted at the technique\u2019s presentation. They said they did not have any pain and they felt OK very quickly. In addition, the patient who underwent intervention more than a year ago stated that he had not had any complication or discomfort in this time.

The complete technique was implemented for the first time at the WIDER-Barcelona Centre, which was formed by the Vall d\u2019Hebron Hospital, the Vall d\u2019Hebron Research Institute, La Caixa\u2019s Social Work Foundation (Spain\u2019s first bank, based in Barcelona), and the Catalan Government.

The Head of Vall d\u2019Hebron\u2019s Digestive Endoscopic Service, Josep Ramon Armengol, explained that the technique (called Transluminal Endoscopic Surgery through Natural Orifices) was already being used but only partially, combined with laparoscopy. In previous operations, the regular procedure was to enter the body through the natural holes but to suture externally. However, Armengol\u2019s team has managed to complete the entire operation only through natural holes, extracting the tumour through the natural orifice and suturing also from the inside. In addition, as opposed to laparoscopy, this new technique does not provoke the bleeding of nearby organs.

In July 2011, Francisco (aged 64) was the first person to be fully operated on using the technique without any external wound. He had a malignant polyp in his right colon. The doctors cut through the entire wall, extracted the polyp and closed the hole suing a continuous suture.

Josep Antoni (aged 72) was the second patient. He had a sub-mucosal gastric tumour that was more than 5 centimetres long and was growing in the abdominal cavity. In this case, to extract the tumour, the medical team opened a 7-centimetre hole in the stomach wall, which was later fixed with a continuous suture.

In fact, this is the main step forward of the Catalan team, using the \u2018overstitch\u2019 continuous suture technique, which is performed with a tool that allows the closing of internal incisions with a perfect cicatrisation process, without complications and without the need to use external surgery.

Using this technique, doctors manage to avoid external scars, reduce pain and minimise inflation. The recovery is thus easier, quicker and with fewer complications. Armengol emphasised that the patient has no external scars after the surgery, not even the small ones after a laparoscopic procedure. He also underlined the fast recovery process.

The Head of Vall d\u2019Hebron\u2019s Digestive Endoscopic Service said that the technique may become more general in the future. However, currently it can only be used in patients that have gone through an accurate selection process, having the guarantee that using the technique his or her problem will be fully solved.

The Vall d\u2019Hebron Research Institute (VHIR) has been testing the technique for five years, using laboratory animals. They waited to have the knowledge and experience to do it on humans without risks.


  • From left to right: the Digestive Endoscopic Service Head, the hospital's Care Director and La Caixa's Director for Science

  • From left to right: the Digestive Endoscopic Service Head, the hospital's Care Director and La Caixa's Director for Science