Australian girl treated in Vietnam with surgical technique available in only two countries

By Thuy Quynh   December 8, 2023 | 10:00 pm PT
Learning that their daughter had a bile duct cyst, an Australian couple took her to Vietnam for a single port laparoscopy, a technique available only in Vietnam and China.

In October, the Australian family who currently lives in Indonesia, took their four-year-old daughter to a hospital in Bali for examination after she suffered abdominal pain and nausea and produced abnormal excrement.

Doctors then found the girl to have a bile duct cyst.

The father carefully researched treatment methods in Bali and many other countries such as Australia, Singapore, and France. However, the only treatment method was open surgery.

He and his wife wanted to use more optimal, less invasive techniques for their daughter.

Then by chance, he read an article by Associate Professor Tran Ngoc Son, Deputy Director of Saint Paul General Hospital in Hanoi about the technique of single-hole laparoscopic surgery to treat bile duct cysts.

Realizing that this is a very minimally invasive method compared to open surgery, the father contacted Dr Son to discuss his daughter's condition.

The whole family flew to Vietnam, and the girl was admitted to the hospital for treatment in late November.

Family of the Australian child patient and medical team at Saint Paul General Hospital. Photo by the hospital

An Australian child patient (5th, L) is with her parents and the medical team treating her bile duct cyst at Saint Paul General Hospital. Photo by the hospital

Speaking to VnExpress on Wednesday, Son said treating common bile duct cysts with single-hole endoscopy is a "particularly difficult technique."

Vietnam is one of two countries in the world to report successful applications, with China.

Bile duct cyst, or choledochal cyst, is one of the common hepatobiliary diseases in children.

Normally, a child's common bile duct is only a few millimeters in diameter but due to the cyst, the girl’s bile duct was more than 2 cm in diameter and dilated into a diamond shape.

According to doctors, if left untreated, the defect could lead to recurrent cholangitis and in the worst-case scenario, there is a risk of acute cholangitis, pancreatitis, or even bile duct necrosis, bile peritonitis, and death.

According to Saint Paul Hospital, in other countries with advanced medical technology, the method used is still open surgery for choledochal cyst disease.

When doing open surgery, the incision is large, there is a lot of trauma, and recovery is slow, especially in children.

In Vietnam, with single-hole laparoscopic surgery to treat choledochal cysts, the doctor only makes an incision of less than 2 cm in the navel, which significantly reduces pain, lowers the risk of infection for patients and expedites their recovery.

Associate Professor Tran Ngoc Son, Deputy Director of Saint Paul General Hospital during the operation to treat the Australian girl. Photo by the hospital

Associate Professor Tran Ngoc Son, Deputy Director of Saint Paul General Hospital, during the operation to treat an Australian girl with bile duct cyst. Photo courtesy of Saint Paul Hospital

"This is an operation that poses many challenges, requiring surgeons to have very professional skills," said Son.

The surgery went successfully as the patient recovered quickly and was able to run and jump after a few days.

The family expressed their admiration for Vietnamese doctors and nurses for mastering this difficult technique.

Son has treated more than 300 children with bile duct cysts using the method, but the Australian girl was his first foreign patient.

Infectious complications in the technique are guaranteed to stay at less than 1%, a very low ratio, he said.

The hospital representative said that many experts from Thailand, Indonesia, and Japan have come to Saint Paul General Hospital to learn about the single-hole laparoscopic surgery method.

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