In medicine (surgery), hemicorporectomy (also referred to as translumbar amputation, corporal transection, hemisomato-tmesis, or "halfectomy", ) is a radical surgery in which the body below the waist is amputated, transecting the lumbar spine. This removes the legs, the genitalia (internal and external), urinary system, pelvic bones, anus, and rectum. It is a severely mutilating procedure recommended only as a last resort for patients with severe and potentially fatal illnesses such as osteomyelitis, tumors, severe traumas and intractable decubiti in, or around, the pelvis. It has only been reported a few dozen times in medical literature.
The nomenclature is somewhat at odds with generally accepted anatomical terms, as hemi is generally used to refer to one of two sides (e.g., hemiplegia, which affects the arm and leg on one side of the body). In that sense, paracorporectomy might more closely reflect the nature of the procedure.
The development of surgical medicine was vastly accelerated during, and following, the Second World War. Rarely experienced traumas were made more common by new weaponry. This required decisive surgical action as well as the development of new techniques. As B. E. Ferrara stated in his summative article on hemicorporectomy,
Lessons learned from battle field injuries quickened innovative treatment of congenital and acquired conditions... [the general surgeon] devised extensive cancer operations including extended radical mastectomy, radical gastrectomy and pancreatectomy, pelvic exenteration, the 'Commando Operation' (tongue, jaw and neck dissection), bilateral back dissection, hemipelvectomy, and then hemicorporectomy or translumbar amputation, referred to as the most revolutionary of all operative procedures.
It was into this environment that Frederick E. Kredel first proposed the operation in February 1951 while discussing a paper on pelvic exenteration. The first hemicorporectomy was attempted by Charles S. Kennedy in 1960, but the patient died eleven days later. J. Bradley Aust and Karel B. Absolon conducted the first successful hemicorporectomy in Minnesota in 1961.
The operation is most often performed to treat spreading cancers of the spinal cord and pelvic bones. Other reasons may include trauma affecting the pelvic girdle ("open-book fracture"), uncontrollable abscess or ulcers of the pelvic region (causing sepsis) or other locally uncontainable conditions. It is used in cases wherein even pelvic exenteration would not remove sufficient tissue.
The surgical procedure is often done in two stages, but it is possible to conduct the surgery in one stage. The first stage is the discontinuation of the waste functions in colostomy (rectum) and ileal conduit (bladder). The second stage is the amputation.[clarification needed]
Removal of large parts of the colon can lead to loss of electrolytes. Similarly, calculated measurements of renal function (such as the Cockroft-Gault formula) are unlikely to reflect actual activity of the kidney, as these calculations were developed for patients in whom the circulatory system correlates with the body weight; this relation is lost in a post-hemicorporectomy patient.
Extensive physiotherapy and occupational therapy are necessary for a patient to return to some form of normal life, which invariably involves using a wheelchair. Designing a prosthesis for the removed body parts is difficult, as there is generally no remaining pelvic girdle musculature (unless this has been spared expressly).
Many emergency rooms have protocols under which they will not resuscitate or support a patient who has already undergone a severe bisection injury that is essentially a de facto hemicorporectomy (although individuals sustaining such an injury would rarely reach a hospital before succumbing.) A study which reviewed 267 cases of patients who sustained severe blunt and penetrating trauma, who had cardiopulmonary arrest, found that only 7 survived long term, only four of whom returned to their previous neurologic level. Apart from the overwhelming statistical unlikelihood of surviving such an injury (even in the short-term), even an operative hemicorporectomy is unlikely to be successful unless the patient has the "sufficient emotional and psychological maturity to cope" and "sufficient determination and physical strength to undergo the intensive rehabilitation".
Emergency rooms and ambulance services often release policies which advise against the resuscitation of such patients. The UK's National Health Service, for example, in its "Policy and Procedures for the Recognition of Life Extinct" describes traumatic hemicorporectomy (along with decapitation) as "unequivocally associated with death" and that such injuries should be considered "incompatible with life". The National Association of EMS Physicians (NAEMSP) and the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma (COT) have also released similar position statements and policy allowing on-scene personnel to determine if patients are to be considered unresuscitatable.
In one case documented by the Archives of Emergency Medicine in 1989, a woman who sustained a complete corporal transection (hemicorporectomy) after being struck by a train arrived at a hospital in a "fully conscious" state and who "was aware of the nature of her injury and wished for further treatment." Although the patient was initially stabilized and underwent three hours of emergency surgery, she died approximately two hours later due to "hypovolaemia, cardiac arrhythmia and biochemical imbalance."
Following a hemicorporectomy, patients are fitted with a socket-type prosthesis often referred to as a bucket. Early bucket designs often presented significant pressure problems for patients, but new devices have incorporated an inflatable rubber lining composed of air pockets that evenly distributes pressure based on the patient's motions. Two openings at the front of the bucket create space for the colostomy bag and the ileal conduit.
- The Godwhale, a science fiction novel featuring a protagonist who has undergone this procedure
- Ferrara, Bernard E. (December 1990). "Hemicorporectomy: A Collective Review". Journal of Surgical Oncology 45 (4): 270–278. doi:10.1002/jso.2930450412. PMID 2250478.
- Shields, Richard K.; Dudley-Javoroski, Shauna (March 2003). "Musculoskeletal Deterioration and Hemicorporectomy After Spinal Cord Injury" (– Scholar search). Physical Therapy 83 (3): 263–275. PMID 12620090.[dead link]
- Porter-Romatowski, Tracy L.; Deckert, M. M. Johanna (April 1998). "Hemicorporectomy: a case study from a physical therapy perspective". Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 79 (4): 464–468. doi:10.1016/S0003-9993(98)90152-6. PMID 9552117.
- Shimazu, S.; Shatney, C. H. (March 1983). "Outcomes of trauma patients with no vital signs on hospital admission". Journal of Trauma 23 (3): 213–216. doi:10.1097/00005373-198303000-00006. PMID 6834443.
- Terz, J. J.; Schaffner, M. J.; Goodkin, R.; Beatty, J. D.; Razor, B.; Weliky, A.; Shimabukuro, C. (June 1990). "Translumbar amputation". Cancer 65 (12): 2668–2675. doi:10.1002/1097-0142(19900615)65:12<2668::AID-CNCR2820651212>3.0.CO;2-I. PMID 2340466.
- South Central Service NHS Trust (July 2012). "184.108.40.206. Conditions unequivocally associated with death". Resuscitation policy (recognition of life extinct). p. 8.
- Hopson, L. R.; Hirsh, E., Delgado, J., Domeier, R. M., McSwain, N. E., Krohmer, J.; National Association of EMS Physicians; American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma (January 2003). "Guidelines for withholding or termination of resuscitation in prehospital traumatic cardiopulmonary arrest: joint position statement of the National Association of EMS Physicians and the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma". Journal of the American College of Surgeons 196 (1): 106–112. doi:10.1016/S1072-7515(02)01668-X. PMID 12517561.
- Traumatic hemisomato-tmesis: a case report and review of the literature, S. J. Walker, R. H. Johnson, Department of Surgery, Whiston Hospital, Prescot, England. Published in Archives of Emergency Medicine, 1989, 6, 66-69.