A lemon-sized malignant tumor in Brooke Zepp's stomach that was beneath several organs and attached to arteries was cut out, after doctors at the University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Medical Center removed six of her organs and then reassembled her insides.
The breakthrough surgery performed 4 March 2008, lasted 15 hours and it involved taking organs such as the stomach, liver, pancreas, spleen, small intestine and two-thirds of the large intestine, out of the body.
According to Dr. Tomoaki Kato, a transplant specialist who led the team of at least nine doctors, some doctors put the organs in an ice-water bath and cut off the two-to-three-inch tumor, while others sewed artificial blood vessels into place. The organs went back in after about 90 minutes and the blood vessels were reconnected.
Dr. Kato hoped this operation would set a precedent so the procedure would be duplicated for other cancer patients and those with aneurysms or other problems associated with the abdominal aorta.
After hearing doctors explain at the medical school how they did it and seeing a video of the March 4 operation that was on display at a news conference, a visibly moved Ms. Zepp said, "I feel like I'm coming through the tunnel and I have a whole life."
The tumor that was in Ms. Brooke Zepp, 63, is rare, because in most abdominal surgeries, organs can be lifted or held aside.
"It wasn't so big, but it was in a very strategic location," said Dr. Andreas Tzakis, director of the hospital's Transplant Institute who was also a member of the operation team.
Ms.Zepp was diagnosed in May with leiomyosarcoma, a rare type of tumor that grows on smooth, involuntary muscles, which include the walls of blood vessels.
Ms.Zepp who was off a ventilator within a day of the operation said, "I feel like I'm alive. I ate a big lunch today. I feel like I have a life. I even invited Dr. Kato to my 100th birthday."