Surgeons Remove Half of Pelvis, Save Leg

During a radical surgery to treat a rare bone cancer, surgeons at University of California (UC) San Diego Health System and Moores Cancer Center removed 50% of a patient’s pelvis. Instead of amputating the connected leg, the surgical team, comprised of orthopedic, vascular and urologic experts, saved the entire limb. The patient was able to walk with assistance 5 weeks after surgery.

“All I can tell you is that the pain was so bad. I could not walk for 1 month before my operation,” Carlos Ortiz, 62 years old, a delivery driver stated in a press release. “Now the pain is gone, simply gone. I am so grateful.”

Ortiz was diagnosed with a form of cancer called chondrosarcoma, the second most common bone malignancy affecting older adults. This cancer is not responsive to chemotherapy or radiation. Surgery is the only treatment option, which, in 90% of cases, results in a disfiguring loss of the leg and part of the hip.

The surgery performed by the Moores Cancer Center Team removed the tumor and saved the patient’s leg.
The surgery performed by the Moores Cancer Center Team removed the tumor and saved the patient’s leg.
Image: UC San Diego School of Medicine

“It is an absolute joy to see Mr. Ortiz walk,” Anna A. Kulidjian, MD, MSc, FRCSC, surgical oncologist in the Department of Orthopaedics at UC San Diego stated. “There was only a 10% chance his leg would be saved. These results represent the incredible efforts of a team of surgeons who operated for more than 14 intense hours.”

During the operation to remove half the pelvis, the team freed the tumor and salvaged the leg. The growth was embedded in the pelvic bone, nerves and blood vessels and adjacent to critical structures such as the bladder, bowel and prostate.

The surgeons disconnected the massive growth from its blood supply without disrupting critical blood flow to the buttock and leg. The leg muscle was then reconstructed and attached to the abdominal musculature. Over time, a combination of scarring and new muscle will hold the leg bone in place.

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