LIFE AS A SURGEON
Life as a Surgeon
Surgical careers begin long before one is known as a surgeon. Medicine in general, and surgery in particular, is competitive from the start. As the competition begins, in college or earlier, students are confronted with choices of doing what interests them and what they may truly enjoy vs doing what is required to get to the next step. It is easy to get caught up in the routine of what is required and to lose track of why one wanted to become a doctor, much less a surgeon, in the first place. The professions of medicine and surgery are vocations that require extensive knowledge and skill. They also require a high level of discretion and trustworthiness. The social contract between the medical profession and the public holds professionals to very high standards of competence and moral responsibility. Tom Krizek goes on to explain that a profession is a declaration of a way of life ‘‘in which expert knowledge is used not primarily for personal gain, but for the benefit of those who need that knowledge.’’
For physicians, part of professionalism requires that when confronted with a choice between what is good for the physician and what is good for the patient, they choose the latter. This occurs and is expected sometimes to the detriment of personal good and that of physicians’ families. Tom Krizek even goes so far as to question whether surgery is an ‘‘impairing profession.’’ This forces one to consider the anticipated lifestyle. In sorting this out, it is neither an ethical breach nor a sign of weakness to allocate high priority to families and to personal well-being. When trying to explain why surgery may be an impairing profession, Krizek expands with a cynical description of the selection process. Medical schools seek applicants with high intelligence; responsible behavior; a studious, hard-working nature; a logical and scientific approach to life and academics; and concern for living creatures. He goes further to explain that in addition to these characteristics, medical schools also look for intensity and drive, but are often unable to make distinctions among those who are too intense, have too much drive, or are too ingratiating.
There are many ethical challenges confronting medical students. As they start, medical students often have altruistic intentions, and at the same time are concerned with financial security. The cost of medical education is significant. This can encourage graduates to choose specialty training according to what will provide them the most expedient means of repaying their debt. This can have a significant, and deleterious, impact on the health care system in that the majority of medical graduates choose to pursue specialty training, leaving a gap in the availability of primary care providers. As medical students move into their clinical training, they begin interacting with patients. One concern during this time is how medical students should respond and carry on once they believe that a mistake on their part has resulted in the injury or death of another human being. In addition, the demands of studying for tests, giving presentations, writing notes, and seeing patients can be overwhelming. The humanistic and altruistic values that medical students have when they enter medical school can be lost as they take on so much responsibility. They can start to see patient interactions as obstacles that get in the way of their other work requirements. During their clinical years, medical students decide what field they will ultimately pursue. For students to make an informed decision about a career in surgery, they need to know what surgeons do, why they do it, and how surgery differs from other branches of medicine. It is important for them to be aware of what the life of a surgeon entails and whether it is possible for them to balance a surgical career with a rewarding family life.
Beginning residents are confronted with a seemingly unbearable workload, and they experience exhaustion to the point where the patient may seem like ‘‘the enemy.’’ At the same time, they must learn how to establish strong trusting relationships with patients. For the first time, they face the challenge of accepting morbidity and death that may have resulted directly from their own actions. It is important that residents learn ways to communicate their experience to friends and family, who may not understand the details of a surgeon’s work but can provide valuable support. The mid-level resident confronts the ethical management of ascending levels of responsibility and risks, along with increasing emphasis on technical knowledge and skills. It is at this level that the surgical education process is challenged to deal with the resident who does not display the ability to gain the skills required to complete training as a surgeon. Residents at this level also must deal with the increasing level of responsibility to the more junior residents and medical students who are dependent on them as teacher, organizer, and role model. All of this increasing responsibility comes at a time when the resident must read extensively, maintain a family life, and begin to put long-range plans into practice in preparation for the last rotation into the chosen final career path. The senior surgical resident should have acquired the basics of surgical technique and patient management, accepting nearly independent responsibility for patient care. The resident at this level must efficiently and fairly coordinate the functioning team, engage in teaching activities, and work closely with all complements of the staff. As far as ethics education is concerned, residents at this stage should be able to teach leadership, teamwork, and decision-making. They should be prepared to take on the value judgments that guide the financial and political aspects of the medical and surgical practice.
The Complete Surgeon
The trained surgeon must be aware of the need to differentiate between the business incentives of medical care and doing what is right for a sick individual. As financial and professional pressures become more intense, the challenge increases to appropriately prioritize and balance the demands of patient care, family, education, teaching, and research. For example, how does the surgeon deal with the choice between attending a child’s graduation or operating on an old patient who requests him rather than an extremely well-trained associate who is on call? How many times do surgeons make poor choices with respect to the balance of family vs work commitments? Someone else can
competently care for patients, but only parents can be uniquely present in the lives of their children. Time flies, and surgeons must often remind themselves that their lives and the lives of their family members are not just a dress rehearsal.
Knowing When to Quit
A 65-year-old surgeon who maintains a full operating and office schedule, is active in community and medical organizations, and has trained most of her surgical colleagues is considering where to go next with her career. Recently, her hospital acquired the equipment to allow robotic dissection in the area where she does her most complicated procedures. She has just signed up to learn this new technology, but is beginning to reflect on the advisability of doing this. How long should she continue at this pace, and how does she know when to slow down and eventually quit operating and taking the responsibility of caring for patients? Murray Brennan summarizes the dilemma of the senior surgeon well. The senior surgeon is old enough and experienced enough to do what he does well. He yearns for the less complicated days where he works and is rewarded for his endeavors. He becomes frustrated by restrictive legislation, the tyranny of compliance, and the loss of autonomy. Now regulated, restricted, and burdened with compliance, with every medical decision questioned by an algorithm or guideline, he watches his autonomy of care be ever eroded. Frustrated at not being able to provide the care, the education, and the role model for his juniors, he abandons the challenge.
Finishing with Grace
Each surgeon should continuously map a career pathway that integrates personal and professional goals with the outcome of maintaining value, balance, and personal satisfaction throughout his or her professional career. He or she should cultivate habits of personal renewal, emotional self-awareness, and connection with colleagues and support systems, and must find genuine meaning in work to combat the many challenges. Surgeons also need to set an example of good health for their patients. Maintaining these values and healthy habits is the work of a lifetime. Rothenberger describes the master surgeon as a person who not only knows when rules apply, recognizes patterns, and has the experience to know what to do, but also knows when rules do not apply, when they must be altered to fit the specifics of an individual case, and when inaction is the best course of action. Every occasion is used to learn more, to gain perspective and nuance. In surgery, this is the rare individual who puts it all together, combining the cognitive abilities, the technical skills, and the individualized decision-making needed to tailor care to a specific patient’s illness, needs, and preferences despite incomplete and conflicting data. The master surgeon has an intuitive grasp of clinical situations and recognizes potential difficulties before they become major problems. He prioritizes and focuses on real problems. He possesses insight and finds creative ways to manage unusual and complex situations. He is realistic, self-critical, and humble. He understands his limitations and is willing to seek help without hesitation. He adjusts his plans to fit the specifics of the situation. He worries about his decisions, but is emotionally stable.
Cystic Disorders of the Bile Ducts
Cystic disorders of the bile ducts, although rare, are well-defined malformations of the intrahepatic and/or extrahepatic biliary tree. These lesions are commonly referred to as choledochal cysts,which is a misnomer, as these cysts often extend beyond the common bile duct (choledochus).
Cystic disorders of the bile ducts account for approximately 1% of all benign biliary disease. Also, biliary cysts are four times more common in females than males. The majority of patients (60%) with bile duct cysts are diagnosed in the first decade of life, and approxi-mately 20% are diagnosed in adulthood.
Cystic dilatation of the bile ducts occurs in various shapes—fusi-form, cystic, saccular, and so on—and in different locations through-out the biliary tree. The most commonly used classification is the Todani modification of the Alonso-Lej classification.
The exact etiology of biliary cysts is unknown.
The initial clinical presentation varies significantly between children and adults. In children, the most common symptoms are intermittent abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, mild jaundice, and an abdom-inal mass. The classical triad of abdominal pain, jaundice, and a pal-pable abdominal mass associated with choledochal cyst is observed in only 10% to 15% of children, and it is rarely seen in adults. Symp-toms in adults often mimic those seen in patients with biliary tract disease or pancre-atitis.
The definitive treatment of bile duct cysts usually includes surgical excision of the abnormal extrahepatic bile duct with biliary-enteric reconstruction. This approach relieves biliary obstruction, prevent-ing future episodes of cholangitis, stone formation, or biliary cirrho-sis and thus interrupting the inflammatory liver injury cycle. It also stops pancreatic juice reflux, and more importantly, it removes tissue at risk of malignant transformation.
Transanal Endoscopic Microsurgery for Rectal Tumors
Cancer of the rectum is the fifth most common form of cancer in adults worldwide. In 2012, an estimated 40,300 new rectal cancers will be diagnosed in the US with a median age 69 years. Five-year survival rates for rectal cancer are high for early stage disease (90% for Stage I disease) but drop significantly with worsening stage (7% for metastatic Stage IV disease). Recently, advances in neoadjuvant and adjuvant therapy have decreased the rate of local recurrence and improved long-term survival for some patients. Although the treatment for rectal cancer has become increasingly multimodal, surgical excision of the primary tumor remains essential for eradication of disease.
For a long time there has been a debate about the best surgical approach to early stage rectal cancer, whether treatment should involve radical excision (excision of the rectum) or local excision (tumor alone). Proponents of radical surgery argue that excision of the rectum with its surrounding lymphatic drainage offers the best chance for cure. On the other hand, advocates of local excision feel that a less-aggressive approach can avoid the potential ramifications of major pelvic surgery such as sepsis, poor anorectal function, sexual dysfunction, and difficulty with urination and can eliminate the potential need for a permanent stoma. Although the debate has gone back and forth on the adequacy of local excision, there is a growing body of scientific data that suggests that local excision can be sufficient in patients with early rectal cancer of the mid and distal rectum with good histologic features and preoperative imaging (computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and endorectal ultrasound) that shows no evidence of lymph node involvement.
Traditionally, transanal excision has been performed with the conventional technique using traditional equipment. Although this conventional technique can give surgeons operative access to most distal rectal lesions, it can be difficult to conduct on mid-rectal tumors or in large patients with a deep buttock cleft. The technical difficulties experienced under such circumstances can lead to poor visualization, inadequate margins, or specimen fragmentation. In response to the technical limitations of conventional transanal excision, in the 1980s Professor Gehard Buess from Tubingen, Germany, began to develop the technique of transanal endoscopic microsurgery (TEM).
In collaboration with the Richard Wolf Company in Germany, Dr Buess developed the specialized instruments necessary to perform endoscopic surgery transanally. TEM was introduced into clinical practice in 1983, and was gradually implemented in several European countries and eventually introduced in North America and Asia. The last decade has witnessed international growth in the application of TEM yielding a significant amount of scientific data to support its clinical merits and advantages and also shedding some light on its limitations.
Câncer de Esôfago
É o tipo de câncer mais associada a quem faz uso de bebidas alcoólicas e é adepto do tabagismo. Mas pode ocorrer também em quem tem refluxo acido do estômago para o esôfago (hérnia hiato e/ou doença do refluxo gastro esofágico). Como todo câncer, seu diagnóstico é tardio, pois não causa dor nem incomodo nas suas fases mais iniciais, e por isso, pedimos aos pacientes, que façam o exame de controle regularmente (endoscopia digestiva alta). O tratamento é um a combinação de radioterapia, quimioterapia e cirurgia, mas que vai ter variações conforme localização no esôfago (medindo entre 26 e 30 centímetros) e o estagio da doença. O esôfago é um tubo musculomembranoso, longo e delgado, que comunica a garganta ao estômago. Ele permite a passagem do alimento ou líquido ingerido até o interior do sistema digestivo, através de contrações musculares. O câncer de esôfago mais freqüente é o carcinoma epidermóide escamoso, responsável por 96% dos casos. Outro tipo de câncer de esôfago, o adenocarcinoma, vem tendo um aumento significativo principalmente em indivíduos com esôfago de Barrett, quando há crescimento anormal de células do tipo colunar para dentro do esôfago.
O câncer de esôfago apresenta uma alta taxa de incidência em países como a China, Japão, Cingapura e Porto Rico. No Brasil, consta entre os dez mais incidentes, segundo dados obtidos dos Registros de Base Populacional existentes, e em 2000 foi o sexto tipo mais mortal, com 5.307 óbitos. De acordo com a Estimativa de Incidência de Câncer no Brasil para 2006, devem ocorrer cerca de 10.580 casos novos deste câncer (7.970 entre os homens e 2.610 entre as mulheres) este ano.
Fatores de Risco/Prevenção
O câncer de esôfago está associado ao alto consumo de bebidas alcoólicas e de produtos derivados do tabaco (tabagismo). Outras condições que podem ser predisponentes para a maior incidência deste tumor são a tilose (espessamento nas palmas das mãos e na planta dos pés), a acalasia, o esôfago de Barrett, lesões cáusticas no esôfago, Síndrome de Plummer-Vinson (deficiência de ferro), agentes infecciosos (papiloma vírus – HPV) e história pessoal de câncer de cabeça e pescoço ou pulmão. Para prevenir o câncer de esôfago é importante adotar uma dieta rica em frutas e legumes, evitar o consumo freqüente de bebidas quentes, alimentos defumados, bebidas alcoólicas e produtos derivados do tabaco. A detecção precoce do câncer de esôfago torna-se muito difícil, pois essa doença não apresenta sintomas específicos. Indivíduos que sofrem de acalasia, tilose, refluxo gastro-esofageano, síndrome de Plummer-Vinson e esôfago de Barrett possuem mais chances de desenvolver o tumor, e por isso devem procurar o médico regularmente para a realização de exames.
O câncer de esôfago na sua fase inicial não apresenta sintomas. Porém, alguns sintomas são característicos como a dificuldade ou dor ao engolir, dor retroesternal, dor torácica, sensação de obstrução à passagem do alimento, náuseas, vômitos e perda do apetite. Na maioria das vezes, a dificuldade de engolir (disfagia) já demonstra a doença em estado avançado. A disfagia progride geralmente de alimentos sólidos até alimentos pastosos e líquidos. A perda de peso pode chegar até 10% do peso corporal.
O diagnóstico é feito através da endoscopia digestiva, de estudos citológicos e de métodos com colorações especiais (azul de toluidina e lugol) para que seja possível se fazer o diagnóstico precoce, fazendo com que as chances de cura atinjam 98%. Na presença de disfagia para alimentos sólidos é necessária a realização de um estudo radiológico contrastado, e também de uma endoscopia com biópsia ou citologia para confirmação. A extensão da doença é muito importante em função do prognóstico, já que esta tem uma agressividade biológica devido ao fato do esôfago não possuir serosa e, com isto, haver infiltração local das estruturas adjacentes, disseminação linfática, cau-sando metástases hematogênicas com grande freqüência.
O paciente pode receber como formas de tratamento a cirurgia, radioterapia, quimioterapia ou a combinação destes três tipos. Para os tumores iniciais pode ser indicada a ressecção endoscópica, no entanto este tipo de tratamento é bastante raro. Na maioria dos casos, a cirurgia é o tratamento utilizado. Dependendo da extensão da doença, o tratamento pode passar a ser unicamente paliativo, através de quimioterapia ou radioterapia. Nos casos de cuidados paliativos, também dispõe-se de dilatações com endoscopia, colocação de próteses auto-expansivas, assim como uso da braquiterapia.