Ukrainian surgeons visit St Mary’s Hospital to observe life and limb-saving trauma surgery techniques

Surgeons from hospitals in Ukraine visited St Mary’s Hospital last week (21-22 February) to learn more about complex surgery techniques which could save lives and limbs at home.

The Ukrainian surgeons spent two days meeting members of the Trust’s specialist trauma plastic surgery team, finding out about its extremity reconstruction service and latest surgical techniques, as well as observing limb reconstruction surgery.

The visit was arranged by Shehan Hettiaratchy, the Trust’s major trauma director and consultant plastic and reconstructive surgeon, as part of his work with frontline medical aid charity UK-Med. Shehan first met the surgeons through his work with UK-Med supporting surgeons in Ukraine as they treat casualties of Russia’s invasion. 

UK-Med deploys frontline medical staff to conflict zones around the world. In the last year, the UK-Med surgical team has performed more than 200 operations and facilitated 130 formal training and on the job training sessions in Ukraine.

Shehan has been working with UK-Med since March 2022, training and supporting Ukranian surgeons online and also visiting the country three times to assist in person. He said: “I’m delighted we could share our expertise as a major trauma centre with our colleagues in Ukraine, and I’m grateful to UK-Med and the Trust for making this possible.

“The medical teams in Ukraine are doing an extraordinary job in incredibly challenging circumstances, especially in terms of the high number of casualties and complexity of extremity trauma. We are in a strong position to support them, given our specialism in this area, and I hope they will be able to take some ideas back to their colleagues in Ukraine. 

“The Ukranian surgeons are quickly becoming experts in these complex type of surgeries, and we’ll soon be learning from them.” 

Hnat Herych, chief of surgery at a hospital in Ukraine, said: “It's been very helpful to see how a leading extremity reconstruction service is run in the UK – both the special protocols and treatments available for complex limb injuries and the importance of collaboration across different disciplines. 

“We’re continuing to see a high number of severe extremity injuries among military and civilian populations in the past year. So it’s important that we’re learning about the latest treatments and surgical technique, both so we can treat patients as quickly and effectively as possible and so our patients don’t need to travel to other countries for complex operations. 

"We’re continuing to build our expertise and in the future hope to open our own centre to help train surgeons in Ukraine. In the shorter term, we hope we’ll be able 
to bring a team of nurses to the UK to learn more about specialist postoperative patient care.”