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Section of TB patient's lung to be removed

Operation will enhance antibiotics, eliminate a place for bacteria to grow, surgeons say.

June 15, 2007|Thomas H. Maugh II | Times Staff Writer

Denver surgeons said Thursday that they will remove a tennis-ball-sized section of lung from Atlanta lawyer Andrew Speaker, the air traveler who set off a worldwide scare when it was revealed that he carries an extremely drug-resistant form of tuberculosis.

Removing the damaged lung tissue that contains most of the bacteria responsible for Speaker's TB will allow antibiotics to be more effective and eliminate a breeding ground for the bacteria, surgeons said.

"Andrew Speaker is an excellent candidate for surgery," Dr. Charles L. Daley of the National Jewish Medical and Research Center said in a statement released by the hospital. "The infected area of his lung is relatively small and well-contained. He is also young and otherwise healthy."

The surgery will be performed sometime in July by Dr. John D. Mitchell at the University of Colorado Hospital's Anschutz Medical Campus in Aurora. No date has been set.

Speaker's May trip to Europe to be married triggered an uproar because he has a form of the disease that is difficult to cure with antibiotics alone.

Health authorities have been searching for passengers who sat near him on his flights to and from Europe to test them for the disease. Speaker proved to be relatively noninfectious and, so far, none has been found to have contracted it.

To elude authorities, Speaker flew from Europe to Canada on his return, then drove into the United States. The unidentified border agent who allowed him to enter despite an alert retired this week after being put on administrative leave.

After Speaker turned himself in to health authorities, he was transferred to National Jewish because of the hospital's expertise in dealing with the rare disease, known as extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, or XDR TB.

Mitchell will attempt a minimally invasive surgery to remove a lobe of Speaker's lung. If that doesn't work, he will finish the job using open chest surgery.

Recovery will take three to six days if the surgery is minimally invasive, and somewhat longer if his chest has to be opened, the hospital said.

Speaker will most likely stay at the Aurora hospital for three to six days, then return to National Jewish, where he has been in isolation.

Many patients who have had the surgery have become culture-negative afterward and have been able to go home within a month, the hospital said.

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