Georgia hospital ‘redefining what’s possible’ with state-first treatment

Northeast Georgia Medical Center is only the eighth hospital in the country to perform a histotripsy

Northeast Georgia Medical Center lauded its Gainesville facility for being the first in Georgia and only the eighth U.S. hospital to perform a cutting edge, noninvasive procedure that could help save lives. But, according to Dr. Nelson Royall, the steady-handed surgeon who pulled it off, it’s about more than that. It’s “redefining what’s possible.”

“It” is a histotripsy, and Royall performed the state’s first April 19 at NGMC Gainesville. It’s an ultrasound-based procedure that serves as an alternative treatment for liver cancer — a disease the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said affects 36,000 Americans each year. Killing an estimated 28,000 people annually, its five-year relative survival rate ranges from 37% to 4%, depending on the type of cancer. Cases of the cancer have been steadily rising for decades.

Cancer treatment on the cutting edge

“Traditional treatments require an invasive procedure to remove the tumor, such as surgery and ablation,” Royall told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an email.

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“Other alternatives, like radiation therapy, risk damaging nearby important organs,” he added. “Histotripsy uses highly-focused ultrasound waves to destroy only cells that have a specific strength — like cancer cells — and leave behind stronger cells, like normal liver cells and blood vessels.”

Thanks to the procedure, NGMC Gainesville is one of a select few places that can treat tumors untouchable by traditional means. Because it’s also noninvasive, histotripsy patients can even go home the same day they are treated.

“Those are tremendous benefits for cancer patients whose immune systems are often already compromised,” Royall said.

An honor to heal

To Gainesville’s pioneering surgeon, it’s “an honor” to be a part of the cutting edge of cancer treatment.

“Being the only hospital in Georgia — and one of the only hospitals in the nation — performing histotripsy is such a significant milestone,” Royall said.

“The gravity of this achievement lies in its potential to expand the boundaries of what was once thought possible in cancer treatment. By pioneering innovative procedures like histotripsy, we are redefining what’s possible in cancer care and offering hope to patients who may have previously faced limited options.”

More to come

While Royall is the state’s first surgeon to pull off the procedure, it’s full steam head for NGMC Gainesville to empower others in the cause against liver cancer.

“My colleague, Dr. Terence Jackson, will start performing this procedure very soon, too, opening up even more access to histotripsy for patients across the Southeast,” Royall said.

“This new technology is just one example of the incredible care that our team is able to offer for patients suffering from cancer or other liver, pancreas and bile duct diseases. We’re excited to be leading the charge for cancer patients in this region and hope to continue leading for years to come.”