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Chitungwiza Hospital conducts first ever Whipple’s procedure

Story by Abigirl Tembo, Health Editor

Zimbabwe has had its first ever Whipple’s procedure, an operation to treat tumours and other conditions in the pancreas, small intestines and bile ducts.

This comes after Chitungwiza Central Hospital opened a laparoscopy clinic and conducted the first such operation this Tuesday.

The Whipple’s procedure, also called a pancreaticoduodenectomy, is the primary surgical treatment for pancreatic cancer that occurs within the head of the gland.

During this procedure, surgeons remove the head of the pancreas, most of the duodenum (a part of the small intestine), a portion of the bile duct, the gallbladder and associated lymph nodes.

It is a complex surgical operation and 50-year-old Mrs Pelagia Ratsakatika of Chitungwiza is the first patient to undergo the procedure in the country.

“Some time back, the doctors discovered that I had gall stones then when I came here, they discovered I had jaundice which causes yellowing. The yellowing is caused by a certain passage in areas around the gall bladder, pancreas lungs, so when there is a blockage, as in my case, the gall stones moved and caused a blockage in the kidneys so my urine turned yellow. Everything turned yellow. I didn’t know this procedure would involve and fix so many organs. For me, it involved the gall bladder, the pancreas as well as the lungs at the same time,” she explained.

After the ten-hour long procedure, Mrs Rakatsika summed up the faith that Zimbabweans have in local doctors.

“I had always had faith in our local doctors and after this operation my faith has actually increased. We still have good doctors and nurses in our government hospitals. They are really doing a good job,” she added.

The complicated surgery was conducted by lead surgeon Dr Pardon Karidza and assisted by Dr Edgar Tinashe Maruba, Dr Munyaradzi Muriva and Dr Tafara Zhou as the lead anaesthetist.

“The procedure is usually done for cancer of the head of the pancrews. It’s quite an extensive procedure, which involves among other things cutting of the cancerous part of the pancreas and part of the small intestines.

“This is the first time we are doing this kind operation and I believe it is the first time such an operation is being done in Zimbabwe. Going forward, we are hoping to do more of these operations provided that we find suitable patients,” said Acting Chief Medical Officer for Chitungwiza Central Hospital, Dr Raphael Makota.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has worked hard in ensuring that all medical specialist services are decentralised in line with the sustainable development goal number three of ensuring universal health coverage.

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