INTRICATE surgery requires a steady hand but operating before a live video stream surely takes it to a whole new level.
Morriston Hospital consultant plastic surgeon Dean Boyce found this out while on a recent visit to India.
Pictured left: (L-R) Dr Vigneswaran, Mr Jonathan Hobby, Prof Raja Sabapathy, Mr Boyce, Dr Hari Venkatramani, Dr Alex Lluch (Barcelona)
Mr Boyce recently used some of his leave to self-fund a visit to the world renowned Ganga Hospital in Coimbatore.
The surgeon often funds his own trips abroad in order to further his own medical experience while helping those most in need.
He said: “It was a massive honour to be invited and it was a great opportunity to experience care provided in a completely different culture.
“The hospital has become a centre of excellence for microsurgery, hand surgery and trauma surgery over the past 30 years, with many surgeons from all over the globe travelling there to train.
“Despite being privately funded, Ganga has an open door policy for treatment of even the poorest patients.”
Once there he performed hand surgery which was streamed live to over 500 centres throughout the world.
Mr Boyce, who is the President of the British Society for Surgery of the Hand, said: “I was out there for five days and we did three days solid operating – we treated more than 40 major adult and paediatric cases in that time.
“All of the surgery was live-streamed to around 500 organisations across the world.
“It can be pretty nerve-wracking operating knowing so many people are watching you, with cameras over your shoulder and people asking questions, but you soon get used to it. Once you’re operating, you’re operating.”
He added that the change of location also posed a challenge but was one worth undertaking.
He said: “It was difficult operating in another country because their theatre systems and instruments were different, and the language barrier was quite stark. But it was certainly worthwhile.
“All the patients were so grateful.”
Of the operations he performed one stood out in particular.
He said: Operating on congenital hand deformities is never straightforward as each individual case is unique.
“The first case I was given was particularly nerve-wracking. It was a cleft deformity of the hand which needed separation of a fused index finger and thumb, then completely isolating the index finger from the rest of the hand and relocating it across onto the other side of the hand.
“This created a useful thumb, closing the cleft, and putting the index finger where it should be at the same time.
“I’ve done the same operation in this country but it was a bit scary doing it in front of so many world experts.
“Thankfully, it was a good result!”
Mr Boyce, who spent some of his time teaching, said that the learning experience was a two way street.
He said: “Ganga is a world renowned centre of excellence, and the surgeons and treatment there is superb. It was an eye-opener to see how health care is delivered in different settings, particularly how a private hospital like Ganga was still able to treat even the poorest people.
“The organisation of their theatres and other systems was just unbelievable. There is a lot that we can learn from them.
“It was humbling to see how much could be achieved with such limited resource. They were hugely efficient. It puts healthcare systems with much more resource to shame.”
The sheer scale of India, in terms of size and population, meant people travelled huge distances to receive treatment.
Mr Boyce said: “The wards were just massive rooms with dozens of people on trollies with curtains drawn around them.
“Because they live so far away, the patients come well before surgery for assessment, or are brought there after massive injuries.
“They stay in the hospital for some time after surgery for their rehab, because they literally had nowhere else to go. They didn’t have the money for a hotel or to go back and fore where they came from, and they didn’t have the services to treat them locally.”
Whilst there, Mr Boyce met up with a former colleague.
He said: “It was also a lovely opportunity to catch up with Dr Vigneswaran, one of the International Fellows who we hosted in our department last year, who is now a consultant in that unit.
“It’s fantastic that Swansea hand surgery is making such important international links.”