Barcelona hospital performs world’s first successful fully functional abdominal reconstruction

Image of surgeons in an operating room.

Image of surgeons in an operating room. Credit: Travelpixs

THE Sant Pau Hospital in Barcelona has carried out the successful reconstruction of a fully functional abdomen.

As there is no public record of this type of surgery being performed anywhere else in the world, it is believed that the hospital was the first to perform such an operation successfully.

Maria Rosa Vergés underwent surgery at the medical facility one year ago after suffering a traffic accident that caused large defects in her abdominal wall.

Thanks to the operation, she has managed to return to a normal life. ‘Now I am perfect, I am the same as before, but with more enthusiasm’, she declared in an interview with the 3Cat television channel.

Vergés explained that she had to wear a girdle after the accident because she ‘had no muscle’ and her intestines ‘were on the surface’.

She said that she become accustomed to being ‘a sick person’, because even though she could lead a relatively normal life, she had already told many people that she would be ‘a person in delicate health’ from that moment on.

Regarding the surgery, Vergés said that the doctors told her that they would extract muscles from her back and put them in her abdomen. Making a comical reply, she told them that: ‘I had a freckle on my back and now I have it on my abdomen’.

Since then, the multidisciplinary team of doctors from the Department of Plastic Surgery and General and Digestive Surgery at the Catalan hospital has operated on five more patients, all of them with tumours.

This type of operation offers patients protection from post-surgical treatments, especially after radiotherapy, in cancer patients with tumours.

How many operations of this type have been carried out?

Of these cases, four have gone well and one has not. ‘That is a 25 per cent failure rate, not good data’, explained Dr Manuel Ferández Garrido, deputy of the Plastic Surgery Department. He added that the ideal would be to have 100 patients operated on and to study the data.

However, after the first procedure, Fernández Garrido assured that they managed to: ‘completely restore the normal abdominal muscle function that the patient had before the operation’.

AS a result: ‘The new muscle has recovered the capacity to contract and is capable of maintaining the same activity as the original muscle’, Dr González detailed.

He pointed out that in some patients: ‘It is impossible to differentiate whether the muscle is original or has been replaced’.

How long does abdominal reconstruction surgery take?

Surgery to reconstruct the abdomen is a long process. In cancer patients it can last up to 12 hours. It consists of three very well differentiated stages.

The doctors explained that the first stage was one of the most important in surgery. This involves the preparation prior to the procedure, where plastic surgeons identify the donor and recipient blood vessels using various techniques.

In the second phase, according to the oncological surgical margin indicated in each patient, Dr González’s General and Digestive Surgery team extracts the tumour.

Finally, the third phase consists of the restoration of the structure and functionality of the abdominal wall. The surgical team replaces the muscle eliminated in the extraction of the tumour with another muscle in the body.

After reconstruction is complete, the nerves regenerate and the donor muscle begins to perform the same function that the original did, as reported by

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Written by

Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at