Cancer patient's leg was attached to his arm to be kept 'alive' during surgery

Doctors believe the procedure carried out on Ian McGregor may be the first of its kind in the UK

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The Independent Online

Surgeons rebuilt the body of a man who underwent surgery to remove a tumour using a part of his leg that they had attached to his arm to keep it alive during surgery.

The 18-hour operation carried out on Ian McGregor, 59, is thought to be the first of its kind in the UK, the BBC reported.

Surgeons at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital amputated his calf and attached it to his arm so that it could be used to repair the site of the operation.  

Mr McGregor, from Sunderland, told the BBC: "You just can't put into words what they did."

He had been suffering from a large, aggressive tumour that had spread from his pelvis into his thigh.

Doctors had unsuccessfully attempted to treat the cancer over the past decade - but they feared the latest attempt would leave an irreparable hole.

Surgeons came up with a solution to remove Mr McGregor’s lower leg, leaving only the bones, and attach to his foreman, where it could be kept alive.

They then removed the tumour and used the amputated calf to repair the surgical area.

The surgery took place in August last year, commencing at 9am and lasting until around 3am the following morning.

Mr McGregor told the BBC he had initially viewed the idea as “Star Trekky”.

"I couldn't imagine what they were telling me, how they would do it and if I would wake up from the operation,” he said.

And he said that without the operation he believed he would now be dead.

"You can't describe the feeling, you think you're at death's door and then you wake up and think wow, I'm here. It's a wonderful feeling," he said.

Experts at the Newcastle hospital believe a similar procedure may have taken place in the United States but over the course of two operations.

Three consultant specialists worked together on the plan.

Consultant Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon Mani Ragbir told the BBC: "We are not aware of anyone having done this particular procedure before.

"It's not easy for a surgeon to tell a patient that they haven't done this particular procedure before."

They now plan to publish their work and believe it may open up a new approach to surgery.