CentraState is one of just a few healthcare systems in the state to remove liver cancer through minimally invasive surgery – and this specialized approach benefits patients of all ages. Just ask Ernest Tripetsky.
Last year, the 86-year-old Manalapan resident – who had prior surgeries at CentraState for bladder cancer and colon cancer – had his regular bloodwork under the care of medical oncologist Jeffrey Silberberg, MD. This time, Ernest’s carcinoembryonic antigen (CEA) level came back high, indicating that cancer may be present somewhere in his body. A CT scan revealed a 3.5 cm liver tumor, and he was referred to hepatobiliary and advanced gastrointestinal (GI) surgeon Alexander Itskovich, MD, medical director of the Statesir Cancer Center at CentraState.
Based on further testing and Ernest’s physiological health – which was verified by CentraState cardiologist Peter Hynes, MD – Dr. Itskovich felt he was a good candidate for a minimally invasive liver lobectomy, which would remove the cancerous portion of his liver.
“This technique is challenging and requires a very high level of proficiency, but it avoids the large incisions, long recovery and higher risk of post-surgical issues like hernias and pneumonia that come with open surgery,” says Dr. Itskovich, who brought the procedure to CentraState and is assisted by an interdisciplinary team. “It means a much easier recovery, which is especially important for older patients.”
Two Minimally Invasive Options
Depending on the needs of each patient, the surgery can be performed laparoscopically or robotically, both of which are minimally invasive approaches using small incisions and specialized surgical instruments. Ernest’s extensive surgical history included a hernia repair and reworked anatomy to account for his removed bladder, so a laparoscopic approach allowed for better positioning of the instruments. In June 2022, Dr. Itskovich removed about one-third of Ernest’s liver through just three small incisions.
“I knew I was in good hands with Dr. Itskovich,” says Ernest. “I didn’t even feel any pain after the surgery. It’s beyond my comprehension.”
Not long after his five-day hospital stay, Ernest resumed his twice-daily 1.5-mile walks with his wife, Zinaida, who had a pain-free minimally invasive gallbladder removal surgery at CentraState in the past. Beyond Ernest’s gratitude for the care team at CentraState, he counts Zinaida’s ongoing support as a significant part of his healing. They recently marked an impressive milestone: 62 years of marriage.
“To celebrate, we drove to visit our son and grandchildren,” says Ernest, now a three-time cancer survivor. “And that’s the best reward anyone can get.”
For more information on the Statesir Cancer Center at CentraState, visit centrastatecancercenter.com or call 855-411-CANCER (855-411-2262).