Unique procedure at Nebraska Medicine success for Lincoln woman

Published: Jan. 31, 2017 at 10:25 PM CST
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Terri Hicken of Lincoln thought she was having gallbladder attacks when she began experiencing stomach pain.

Her doctors in Lincoln ran tests and discovered a tumor in her esophagus. They recommended she go to Nebraska Medicine for a special procedure, which has allowed her to live life to the fullest.

Every morning, Hicken laces up her sneakers and heads on a stroll.

"Walking at the mall every morning from about 7:00 a.m. to 7:45 a.m.," Hicken said.

It's a new routine she's picked up since seeing Dr. Oleynikov at Nebraska Medicine. When doctors discovered the tumor in her esophagus, they knew she needed special treatment because of where it was located.

"The location of this tumor was in a spot that often requires quite extensive surgery to the stomach and the esophagus, leaving the individual sometimes significantly unable to eat certain kids of foods and having difficulties in swallowing," Dr. Dmitry Oleynikov said. He's a professor of surgery at the University of Nebraska Medicine and chief of minimally invasive and bariatric surgery at Nebraska Medicine.

Instead of undergoing an extensive surgery that could permanently alter her life, Dr. Oleynikov and his team performed a new, unique procedure.

"I couldn't believe what happened," Hicken said. "It was just like, you know, no cancer, the surgery went so smooth and it was like all my prayers were answered."

Doctors used two different scopes to see inside her stomach, along with two kinds of tools to remove the tumor.

"We were able to, instead of doing a big operation, essentially go inside of her stomach," Dr. Oleynikov said. "From the inside of her stomach, [we took] this tumor out in a way that did not effect her valve, which allows her to swallow and not have reflux disease, and yet get [the tumor] all out so there wasn't a chance it would come back."

It's a tricky procedure that's not all that common, but leaves the patient with just small incisions.

"She couldn't have lived with [the tumor], because it would have kept getting bigger and causing more and more problems," Dr. Oleynikov said. "Had we removed it in a standard fashion, then that would have been an operation much more difficult, much longer, much riskier. One that would have left her permanently unable to eat certain kinds of foods and doing all kinds of things that she would have to do different."

Now, fully recovered, Hicken is able to live life to the fullest and is enjoying her grandkids.

"I'm just really happy that I'm able to work, and I'm able to eat and I'm able to keep up with those kids," Hicken said.

Dr. Oleynikov said Nebraska Medicine is the only hospital in Omaha to frequently perform this type of procedure. It takes a talented team of doctors with much experience.

Since her surgery, Hicken exercises regularly, watches her diet and says she feels healthier than ever.