BBC Two’s ‘Surgeons: At the Edge of Life’ runs every Thursday night from November 11 for six weeks to spotlight some of the world’s most advanced surgery at Addenbrooke’s Hospital and neighbouring Royal Papworth.
Non-urgent advice: Catch-up on Surgeons: At the Edge of Life
All episodes will be available on BBC iPlayer after broadcast
The following is a focus on the Addenbrooke’s surgeons who took part.
Episode 6 16 December 2021
For the first time BBC Two’s Surgeon’s: At the Edge of Life takes a look behind the scenes at Addenbrooke’s busy emergency department and follows some fast decision making, expert surgeons and remarkable patient stories.
Alex Reid, who is seen helping motorcyclist Adrian, 52, after a road traffic collision, is a consultant plastic and hand surgeon at CUH. His subspecialty interests include complex hand trauma and microsurgery, arthritis, nerve and tendon reconstruction, Dupuytren's contracture and skin cancer surgery.
Working with him is Ian Grant, a consultant in plastic and reconstructive surgery, and surgery of the hand. His interests include adult and children's hand surgery, peripheral nerve surgery, skin cancer, and reconstructive microsurgery.
CUH is a leading organisation in terms of neurosurgical research and is recognised internationally. Among those on the team, and filmed treating assault victim Cawley, 25, are Angelos Kolias and Harry Bulstrode.
Angelos is a consultant neurosurgeon in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences and a clinical senior lecturer. His clinical interests include neurotrauma, neuroendoscopy, anterior skull base/pituitary surgery and spine surgery.. He is the co-chief investigator of four NIHR-funded randomised trials aiming to optimise the management of patients with head injuries in the NHS. He is also the associate director of the NIHR Global Health Research Group on Neurotrauma, a consortium that is aiming to improve outcomes following a traumatic brain injury in low- and middle-income countries.
Harry completed consultant training at Addenbrooke’s Hospital this year and is currently a postdoctoral clinician scientist at the Francis Crick Institute in London. His research is funded by CRUK and the Wellcome Trust , and centres on stem cell biology and virus infection in the developing brain and in malignant brain tumours. He works clinical oncalls at Addenbrooke’s alongside his academic job.
As the on call trauma and orthopaedic surgeon, Hassan Fawi was filmed re-setting motorist Sarah’s leg, and operating with other colleagues on Adrian’s forearm in the early hours of the morning. Hassan is a higher surgical trainee currently reading for a PhD at Imperial College London in collaboration with the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and Addenbrooke’s, incorporating data from the Met weather office. Supervised by Dr Daniela Fecht and Mr Vikas Khanduja, he is studying “Seasonality of Surgical Site Infections Following Joint Replacements”. His study received pump priming funding from the international non-profit association, the Société Internationale de Chirurgie Orthopédique et de Traumatologie (SICOT).
Doug Hay, who faces the challenging task of rebuilding the broken vertebrae in Sarah’s neck, is a consultant orthopaedic spinal surgeon working within CUH’s Neurosurgical Department. He is interested in a wide range of spinal disorders, including degenerative conditions of neck and lumbar spine, tumour, infection, trauma and scoliosis in children and adults.
Episode 5 – 9 December 2021
Miss Ekpemi Irune and colleagues Nic Segaren return to BBC Two for the second time this series, this time to help patient Nancie who needs a complex operation to remove her larynx and rebuild her oesophagus.
Ekpemi is a highly experienced consultant laryngology, head and neck and thyroid surgeon. Her practice includes complex benign and malignant head and neck pathology. She has a special interest in transoral laser micro-surgery and in transoral robotic surgery, which is a procedure to remove mouth and throat cancers using sophisticated, computer-enhanced systems to guide surgical tools. In response to Covid, she developed, and leads, a multi-specialist voice, swallow and upper airway clinic for sufferers of long COVID-19, and undertakes research as chief, principal and co-investigator for studies in oncology and COVID-19.
Nic, who is assisting Ekpemi, is a consultant plastic surgeon with a special interest in head and neck reconstruction, and trauma. He joined CUH around eight years ago as a specialist surgical registrar. He is a member of groups including the BAPRAS Innovation Group, which encourages and promotes innovations within UK Plastic Surgery, and the UK Fulbright Alumni Network, which fosters mutual cultural understanding through educational exchange between the UK and US.
Tom Santarius, who is seen operating on patient Gemma. He is a consultant neurological surgeon with a special interest in treating brain tumours in adults and children. His research is focussed on better understanding the biology of brain tumours and the improvement of surgical techniques to remove them. He also treats ‘lesions’ that look like tumours, including colloid cysts of the third ventricle, pineal cysts and cavernous malformations (cavernomas).
He has an on-call responsibility for emergency neurosurgery, dealing with with traumatic brain injury and other acute conditions, including intracranial haemorrhages, hydrocephalus and intracranial sepsis. He teaches anatomy and physiology of the brain and its surroundings.
Episode 4 – 2 December 2021
Pelvic exenteration is the challenging multidisciplinary surgery that may offer the only hope of cure to patients with recurrent or very advanced rectal cancer. An expert in this procedure is consultant surgeon Nicola Fearnhead, who with colleague Alex Colquhoun, are helping patient Stuart.
Nicola has been a consultant colorectal surgeon at CUH since 2006, having trained in Oxford and at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. She has a specialist interest in surgery for advanced pelvic malignancy. She is a past president of the Association of Coloproctology of Great Britain and Ireland, and is the surgical Lead for the National Bowel Cancer Audit.
Alex was appointed as a consultant urologist at CUH in 2011, after training in the UK and Toronto, Ontario. She has a specialist interest in the treatment of bladder cancer and is the clinical lead for the Bladder Oncology Team at Addenbrooke’s Hospital specialising in the management of pelvic malignancy. She is the current Honorary Secretary of Section of Oncology of the British Association of Urological Surgeons.
Alexis Joannides, who is operating on patient Adam, is an academic consultant neurosurgeon, specialising in the management of brain tumours and hydrocephalus. His surgical practice includes techniques such as fluorescence-guided surgery, awake craniotomy, brain mapping, and neuroendoscopy.
His research interests include the use of complex healthcare datasets to understand epidemiology, identify unmet clinical needs, and evaluate treatment outcomes in neurological disorders. He is the clinical lead for the Reversible Dementia project, which aims to improve the care of patients with normal pressure hydrocephalus. He is also deputy director of the Brain Injury MedTech co-operative, which supports the development of new medical devices and healthcare technologies for improving the quality-of-life of patients following brain injury.
Episode 3 - 25 November 2021
Richard Price and Animesh Patel team up for another complex procedure. Their patient – 68-year-old former fighter pilot Paul – has had recurrent basal cell carcinoma on his face. Despite numerous small procedures to remove the cancer it has returned, and this time it has grown into the muscle and tissue around his temple and cheek and is dangerously close to his eye. If left untreated the cancer will continue to grow and could penetrate his eye socket and even his brain.
Paul is in excellent hands. Animesh is the lead plastic surgeon for head and neck reconstruction at CUH. He works alongside colleagues in ENT, oral surgery and neurosurgery, to carry out complex reconstructive surgery for patients with cancers of the head and neck region. Primarily a cancer surgeon, he also performs reconstructive surgery on all the parts of the body, alongside colleagues from various other specialties, including dermatology, colorectal, urology, orthopaedics. In his skin cancer practice, he performs specialised surgery for rare skin cancers, including paediatric skin cancers.
Richard is the senior plastic surgery head and neck surgeon at CUH. He handed over as lead for head and neck reconstruction to Animesh a year ago and now focuses on facial reconstruction, facial palsy and neurosurgical reconstruction.
Episode 2 - 18 November 2021
Rod Laing (above right) – a familiar figure from the last series - was appointed as a consultant neurosurgeon, with an interest in spinal neurosurgery, at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in 1995. He is an expert in complex spinal neurosurgery and minimally invasive (keyhole) surgery. He specialises in the treatment of degenerative disease, trauma, tumours and syringomyelia - a disorder in which a fluid-filled cyst (called a syrinx) forms within the spinal cord.
In this episode he is teamed up Mr Jibin Francis (above left), a neurosurgeon practising primarily in adult spinal disease. Together they face the daunting task of helping patient Colin who has a slipped disc in the thoracic spine. This disc has turned into bone and is pressing into the spinal cord and is threatening Colin with paralysis. Such cases are rare, and challenging. Rod must enter through the side of the chest and work his way deep into the body, avoiding important nerves and blood vessels as he makes his way to the spine. It is operating at the limit.
Episode 1 - 11 November 2021
Miss Ekpemi Irune and colleagues Nic Segaren and Amer Durrani feature in two episodes and demonstrate the incredible teamwork that takes place between different specialisms.
They come together to undertake the seemingly impossible task of removing a life-threatening tumour from the face and neck of patient Chris who has a poor prognosis.
Ekpemi is a highly experienced consultant laryngology, head and neck and thyroid surgeon. Her practice includes complex benign and malignant head and neck pathology.
Nic and Amer are consultant plastic and reconstructive surgeons and step in after Ekpemi’s surgery for the reconstruction phases of both operations.
Nic has a special interest in head and neck reconstruction and trauma.
Amer is known for his exceptional experience and expertise in microsurgery; reconstructive surgery; sentinel node biopsy; breast reconstruction; skin tumours / cancer/ oncology and management of malignant melanoma.