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Thoracic surgeon Sandra Starnes, MD specializes in video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS).
Minimally Invasive Thoracic Surgery
Michael Reed, MD, and the UC thoracic surgery team perform minimally invasive surgery at University Hospital.

Thoracic surgeon Sandra Starnes, MD specializes in video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS).

Jeffrey Sussman, MD, is a professor and chief of surgical oncology at UC.

Syed Ahmad, MD

Sandra Starnes, MD, is chief of the thoracic surgery division for the UC College of Medicine Department of Surgery.
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Publish Date: 04/29/09
Media Contact: AHC Public Relations, (513) 558-4553
Patient Info:

For esophageal screenings, call (513) 475-7505. For surgery appointments, call (513) 475-8787. Appointments are available at various locations, including Clifton and West Chester.

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Minimally Invasive Esophagus Cancer Surgery Now Available in Cincinnati

Cincinnati—A multidisciplinary surgical team at University Hospital recently performed the first minimally invasive esophagus cancer surgery (esophagectomy) in Greater Cincinnati, offering patients a less invasive surgical treatment option.


The team—comprising thoracic surgeons Michael Reed, MD, and Sandra Starnes, MD, and surgical oncologists Syed Ahmad, MD, and Jeffrey Sussman, MD—performed the first two operations in early April. Both patients were released from the hospital in just over a week, several days earlier than with standard open surgery, and are recovering at home.


“By working as a multidisciplinary cancer team, we are able to perform comprehensive surgical care in a much less invasive way,” explains Sussman, chief of surgical oncology at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine and cancer surgeon with UC Physicians. “It also results in a significantly smoother recovery process, less pain and reduced length of hospital stay for the patient.”


The goal of an esophagectomy operation is two-fold: to remove the cancerous tumor and enough surrounding tissue to ensure cancer-free margins and to re-establish gastrointestinal continuity. Within the University Hospital team, surgical oncologists use laparoscopy to completely mobilize the stomach and other associated steps in the operation. The thoracic surgeons remove the tumor in the chest and any necessary surrounding tissue using video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS). Both techniques require only a few small incisions in the abdomen and chest to insert the minimally invasive tools used to operate.  


Reed estimates that 50 percent of his patients would be good candidates for the minimally invasive surgery and currently offers the option to these patients regularly. He and his colleagues treat more than 300 patients with esophageal or lung cancer annually, with 75 percent of those currently performed using minimally invasive techniques such as VATS or laparoscopy.


Surgeons say the minimally invasive approach gives patients the benefit of diminished post-operative pain, shorter hospital stays and faster recovery times.


“But these procedures are complex and require advanced minimally invasive surgical skills and experience, so they should ideally be performed by teams who already have expertise in major open esophageal cancer surgery, advanced laparoscopy and advanced minimally invasive thoracic surgery to offer the best outcomes for patients,” adds Reed, a thoracic surgeon with UC Physicians and associate professor at UC.


According to the American Cancer Society, more than 16,400 people in the United States are diagnosed with esophageal cancer each year. The disease is three to four times more common among men than among women and 50 percent more prevalent among African-Americans than among Caucasians.


People with Barrett’s esophagus and others at high risk should be screened regularly to look for cancer of the esophagus. Symptoms of esophageal cancer often do not occur until the disease has progressed significantly, but can include trouble swallowing, pain in the mid-chest and weight loss.


For esophageal screenings, call (513) 475-7505. Appointments are available at University Hospital (Clifton) and West Chester Medical Center.


For surgery appointments, call (513) 475-8787. UC surgeons see patients at various locations, including the Medical Arts Building (Clifton), University Pointe (West Chester) and UC Barrett Cancer Institute at University Hospital (Clifton).

For more information about the physicians at the University of Cincinnati, visit


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