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Surgeon David A. Iannitti, M.D., is one of the pioneers in what is called Microwave Tumor Ablation. Highly specialized in the treatment of diseases of the liver, pancreas and bile ducts, Dr. Iannitti is developing a new service at Carolinas Medical Center.
“This therapy is the cutting edge and is especially useful for patients who are not eligible for partial removal of the liver because their cancer is too widespread,” explained Dr. Iannitti. “Chemotherapy is often not completely effective in these cases but combined with microwave ablation we are frequently able to offer better outcomes.”
The process involves identifying tumors by C-T scanning of the liver. In Heslin’s case, he had received chemotherapy but C-T identified some remaining residual tumors. Surgery then follows in which the tumors are confirmed by ultrasound. Dr. Iannitti then places three specialized microwave antennas into and around the tumor, and energy is applied. The microwave energy heats the tumor and surrounding tissue, destroying it.
Kevin Heslin initially had colon cancer and though that was removed, the cancer had spread (metastasized) to his liver. Chemotherapy clearly shrank his tumors resulting in a stable situation. Nonetheless the long-term outlook was not good. Then he was referred to Dr. Iannitti and was delighted to be the first patient to receive this therapy in the Carolinas. Some such surgeries can be done laparoscopically while others require open surgery.
Heslin’s surgery lasted less than three hours and Dr. Iannitti is pleased with the result. “We located six tumors and were able to reach all of them,” said Dr. Iannitti. “Mr. Heslin is recovering well from his surgery and is likely to remain in the hospital less than one week. Although the surgery was a success, he will still require chemotherapy and follow up care. However, this course will give him his best chance for long-term survival and/or cure.”
Dr. Iannitti was recruited to Carolinas Medical Center from Brown University Medical School where he was Associate Professor of Surgery. In addition to his general surgical training, he was specialty trained through his fellowship at the The Cleveland Clinic Foundation in Hepatobiliary and Transplant Surgery. Dr. Iannitti is internationally known for tumor ablation and development of tumor technology including cryoablation and radioablation, is the principal investigator of microwave ablation of liver cancer, the newest developing technology. His primary goal is to build a nationally recognized program to treat cancers of the liver, pancreas and the bile ducts. He also recognizes the growth of the Carolinas and Charlotte region and the need for his special skills as the population increases.
“We are successful when we use a team approach. That means involving oncologists, cancer surgeons, transplant surgeons, hepatologists (liver specialists) and other sub-specialists. That’s the team we are building now, working with the extraordinary physicians already in place at CMC, and recruiting others. I’m very excited that we can bring this level of highly specialized care to the people of North and South Carolina, and expect that this will become a referral center for a much larger area of the country, and likely, internationally. Building a world-class program involves clinical excellence, research, and training the physicians of the future.”
From his hospital bed, Kevin Heslin has a message. “Get a colonoscopy. Don’t delay it, don’t fail to do it, especially if there’s any history of colo-rectal cancer in your family. Do it before you turn 50,” said the 48-year old. Dr. Iannitti added, “Screening colonoscopy clearly improves the chances of detecting cancerous or pre-cancerous lesions of the colon earlier, thereby improving outcome.”
Carolinas HealthCare System (www.carolinashealthcare.org) is the largest healthcare system in the Carolinas, and the third largest public system in the nation. CHS owns, leases or manages 19 hospitals in North and South Carolina, and employs more than 700 physicians who practice in more than 150 locations. CHS also operates nursing homes, ambulatory surgery centers, home health agencies, radiation therapy facilities and physical therapy facilities. Together, these operations comprise approximately 4,500 licensed beds and employ more than 26,750 full-time or part-time employees.
CHS’s flagship facility is Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, an 861-bed hospital which includes a Level I trauma center, a research institute, a children’s hospital, a rehabilitation facility and a large number of specialty treatment units (heart, cancer, organ transplant, etc.). CMC also serves as one of North Carolina’s five Academic Medical Center Teaching Hospitals, providing residency training for 207 physicians in 15 specialties.
Carolinas Medical Center has been named the “Consumer’s Choice Preferred Hospital” in the Charlotte market by the National Research Corporation nine times. HealthGrades, the nation’s leading independent healthcare ratings company, rated CMC as best in the Charlotte area for overall cardiac services, and among the top five in North Carolina. CMC is also the first hospital in North Carolina to be recognized by J.D. Power and Associates for service excellence in maternity care. In the fall of 2007, the 234-bed Levine Children’s Hospital will open on the CMC campus.
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