The new series of cutting-edge medical TV documentary was filmed at two Cambridgeshire hospitals just before the coronavirus pandemic.
Series three of Surgeons: At the Edge of Life was filmed at Royal Papworth and Addenbrooke’s in Cambridge during 2019 and early 2020.
Every hour-long episode – aired on Tuesday’s on BBC Two – will feature two operations, showcasing some of the most advanced and complex surgeries.
The first episode aired on October 6 and the footage was shot from fixed rigs within operating theatres in order not to distract the operating teams.
Shots include close-ups of surgeons, anaesthetists and other members of the teams at work during the most critical moments of the operations.
Viewers will get another insight into what goes on at the two hospitals in episode two of four which airs next Tuesday (October 13).
In the episode, at Royal Papworth Hospital, senior consultant thoracic surgeon Aman Coonar calls on the skills of Addenbrooke’s consultant plastic surgeon, Professor Charles Malata.
They need to undertake a chest wall reconstruction on former builder, Kevin; a complex, marathon procedure that takes 18 hours.
Backed by a team of 25 colleagues from both hospitals, the pair aim to close a cavity in Kevin’s back that hasn’t healed since he had a cancerous lung removed 17 years ago. 1
The constant flow of fluid makes it impossible to lead a normal life and leaves him feeling miserable.
Kevin, a grandfather of two from Peterborough, said: “I had been offered this operation a few years ago but put it off owing to the risk involved.
“In 2019 my quality of life hit an all-time low and both Mr Coonar and Professor Malata were confident they could fix me, so with their reassurances I decided to go ahead with the operation.”
In the same episode at Addenbrooke’s hospital, another highly-challenging operation also requires the skills of different specialists - consultant neurosurgeons, Mr Richard Mannion, consultant ENT surgeon, Patrick Axon, and their expert team.
You may also want to watch:
Their patient, 47-year-old father of four, Gulraiz, has a rare type of tumour called an acoustic neuroma growing at the back of the brain on his hearing nerve.
If it’s not removed soon, he will not survive.
Patrick’s job is to make a pathway to the tumour by drilling through Gulraiz’s skull from behind his left ear.
Richard takes over for several hours of micro-dissection to painstakingly remove it, without damaging Gulraiz’s brain.
The operations follow the first episode featuring a pelvis and hip operation at Addenbrooke’s and a pulmonary endarterectomy at Royal Papworth, the only hospital in the UK to undertake such complicated lung surgery.
Mr James Wheeler, divisional director for surgery and consultant colorectal surgeon at Addenbrooke’s, said: “This is a very important and thought-provoking television series.
“Not only does it give a rare insight into the cutting-edge surgery that goes on here in Cambridge, but it also serves as a tribute to the incredible courage and determination of those patients we treated.”
Mr David Jenkins, divisional director for Surgery and Transplant at Royal Papworth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, added: “We carry out complex heart and lung operations every day, with some of the best outcomes internationally and it is a great opportunity to show the public what we can achieve.
“We are very grateful to patients like Kevin who took part in this filming for sharing their experiences at such a critical time in their lives.”
Speaking of how the TV show was made, Royal Papworth communications manager Sam Edwards, said: “Each procedure involved about nine days of filming.
“Including the day of the operation, the day before and after, and further filming with the patients and surgeons afterwards.
“The production company also carried out some drone filming to give viewers a sense of the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, where both Royal Papworth Hospital and Cambridge University Hospitals are based.
“We were keen to show the variety of procedures we perform at Royal Papworth, so chose one cardiac (heart) operation, one thoracic (chest) operation, as well as a transplant and pulmonary endarterectomy (also known as PEA).
“We had several meetings with our surgeons, anaesthetists and the production company as well as patients who were waiting for these procedures before we decided which procedures to film.
“I’d really like to thank all of the patients who took part in the programme – they really put their trust in us and we’re so grateful they were willing to share their stories.”