Patient recovering well after part of leg was sent on 20 minute journey during 'mindblowing' operation

A cancer patient is recovering well after a rare operation in which part of her leg was sent on a 20 minute journey to another treatment centre while she lay on the operating table.

Jan Ritson’s bone was removed and sent on a 20-minute journey.
Jan Ritson’s bone was removed and sent on a 20-minute journey.

Jane Ritson’s left shinbone (tibia) was removed during an operation at NHS Golden Jubilee in Clydebank and sent in a sterile container to the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre in Glasgow for radiation treatment of a sarcoma.

Once treated, the bone was re-packaged and brought back to the Golden Jubilee National Hospital, where the team was waiting to insert it back in place.

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Ms Ritson’s leg was at risk of amputation, but because of the surgery this will not be necessary. The 71-year-old from Stewarton in East Ayrshire is now looking forward to getting back to gardening, golf, and normal life.

She said: “It was a little bit daunting, I have to say, knowing that if the operation hadn’t worked out that it would mean an amputation. That really worried me, but I got my head round it and accepted that’s what it was going to be.“It’s absolutely mind-blowing what they have achieved.”

The complex surgery lasted more than 12 hours and involved a team of three specialist consultant surgeons (a Surgical Oncology Consultant, Plastic Surgeon and Foot and Ankle Specialist), two Consultant Anaesthetists, a Radiation Oncology Consultant, Sarcoma Specialist Nurses, Sterilisation Services staff, the National Blood Transfusion Service and medical device company representatives.

It was led by Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon Ashish Mahendra of Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

Ms Ritson, who has had two previous diagnoses of cancer, said: “I researched Mr Mahendra and was quite happy to put my leg in his hands, as it were, and just get on with the operation.”

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She added: Now that it’s done I feel wonderful and I’m now in the healing process where I have to do a good job too to make me better and whole, maybe get back to some golf at some point hopefully.“Everything is healing well and going according to plan. Before the operation I hadn’t been able to do much like gardening or anything so just getting back to normal life and not being wheeled about in a chair would be just magic, wonderful.”

As well as treating the cancer, the radiation effectively killed the bone, meaning it would no longer receive a blood supply. Clean bone from Mrs Ritson’s fibula was used to bring the tibia back to life.

The procedure would normally have been performed at Glasgow Royal Infirmary, but in April 2020 the sarcoma service was transferred to the Golden Jubilee to ensure the service could continue to treat patients through the pandemic.

Mr Mahendra said: “This really was one big team effort by everyone involved and we could not have done this without the teamwork and collaboration when the sarcoma service transferred over to the Golden Jubilee.“The patient is doing really well so far and is very grateful the cancer is out. She is healing well but has a long road ahead and remains under regular follow-up.

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