Trendelenburg’s Operation

Trendelenburg’s operation is a surgical procedure which consists of opening a patient’s pulmonary arteries in order to extract blood clots from them. It’s a last chance surgery in case of massive (i.e. deadly) Pulmonary embolism. The patient would die without it in almost 100% of cases. The catch is that he/she will succumb to the surgery about 90% of the time…

So which would you pick? Certain death if nothing is attempted vs. a 10% chance to live? I would probably try my luck as, I guess, most would. Usually people suffering from such massive embolism aren’t in any shape to make that choice, they’re intubated, on life support machines and their family has to pick for them. I’ve participated in 2 such procedures over the last 5 years and in one case, the patient was conscious before going in for surgery.

Imagine an operating room full of nurses, surgeons and 2 anesthesiologists, including me. The patient is on the operating table, it’s cold, the lights are harsh and we’re starting to put her under. We try to make her comfortable, as usual, with chit-chat. We talk about everything at that time, as the drugs are slowly taking patients away. We ask them where they want to go on their next holliday, what their favorite pets’ names are, if they noticed how summer is already on the way. We tell them about what a mild Autumn it has been or ask them what their favorite movie is. It’s a mild form of hypnosis. We try to take patients away from the cold, unfamiliar, scary place an operating room can be. I usually ask them to pick a dream for their oncoming slumber and then we say goodbye, see you later, we’ll be there when they wake up. All this in as much of a chilled, happy mood as possible.

Knowing that chances are that they’re most likely going to die on that operating table, makes it an very unique experience. It’s not easy to smile and say “Don’t worry, we’ll see each other again soon” when you know that in a few hours, you’re going to stop the respirator and call the time of their death…
That’s my job.

And I get to be the one who has to go tell their close ones the bad news. Fun…

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3 Responses to Trendelenburg’s Operation

  1. deathamite says:

    Well, thats very depressing…

  2. Caroline Barnich says:

    Do you know how amazing you are?

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