Updated at 19:56,22-01-2021

World’s first trachea transplant made by Belarusian doctors


Three months ago, the operation was made to a 65-year-old resident of Rahachou.

Anatol Khlapkou learned about cancer in late 2014. He was already retired, and before that he had worked in road construction. Although conditions were harmful, said Khlapkou, the work itself did not fall in this category. The man admitted to Naviny.by that he had smoked for about 40 years but gave it up even before discovering the disease.

“I gave up smoking before getting sick — I wanted to make a gift to my wife. However, it was still painful to swallow and hard to breathe. It turned out that I had cancer,” he says.

Cancer was found at a later stage, although Anatol did chest X-rays almost every year.

As a rule, the cancer does not show itself in the early stages and it is not detected by chest X-ray – only on computer tomography. Healthy people over 50 years should make a CT scan every three years: in this period cancer develops from the start until the third or fourth stages. Anatol Khlapkou did not make a CT scan in Rahachou.

“I had no choice – to agree to the operation or not. I want to live, I have two little grandchildren, a son. I had a desire to live and faith in people. I am very grateful to the doctors for what they have done,” said Anatol Khlapkou.

The trachea transplant using a special prosthesis was made for the first time in the world. The method is based on the adaptation of the donor trachea before implantation into the patient. To do this, the donor trachea was cleaned of the cellular elements and then implanted at some time in the patient’s stomach for it to get settled with his stem cells prepared in advance.

During the operation, Anatol Khlapkou had a part of his trachea removed and replaced with a prosthesis.

Surgeon Uladzimir Zharkou says it is not so much important that the Belarusian doctors were the first to use this method, but the fact that this method is “a new opportunity to save lives.”

World’s first trachea transplant made by Belarusian doctors

World’s first trachea transplant made by Belarusian doctors

The operation was conducted in the framework of the Republican Scientific and Paractical Center research program. The state spent on it about $125K, another $25K were added by the Center from money earned on extrabudgetary activities.

Director of the Republican Scientific and Practical Center of Oncology and Medical Radiology Aleh Sukonka noted that the success of the program proved its importance to the Ministry of Health.

According to the professor, the serious spendings, however, did not guarantee success, as “scientific advances are not made on order”.

In Belarus, in case of failure of a research project, scientists have to return the state funds allocated to it. Fortunately for all, the trachea transplant project was successful.