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Donahue, Wei Expand General Thoracic Surgery Options in Alabama

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Located in Birmingham, Alabama, the University of Alabama at Birmingham and its accompanying academic medical center, UAB Medicine, is home to a growing general thoracic surgery program.

Nested within a 1,157-bed tertiary hospital and academic health center, the UAB Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery’s general thoracic surgical faculty includes Associate Professor James M. Donahue, M.D., and Associate Professor and Program Director of the Thoracic Surgery Residency, Benjamin Wei, M.D. Together, they have performed 4,000 general thoracic surgery procedures over the past four years.

As important members of the UAB O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center, UAB thoracic surgeons maintain strong collaborative relationships with multiple specialists in cancer medicine to provide outstanding patient care. UAB thoracic surgeons are experienced in performing complex pulmonary, mediastinal and esophageal resections for cancer, often after induction chemotherapy and/or radiation treatment.

“Our goal is to provide the best care available in the country to our patients at UAB,” said Donahue. “Our research and academic endeavors keep us up on the latest techniques and therapies, which ultimately result in better patient outcomes.”

Additionally, UAB Medicine’s Robotic Thoracic Surgery program is one of the largest and most robust of its kind in the world. UAB Medicine’s general thoracic surgical faculty have performed close to 1,000 robotic surgical procedures during the past four years.

The robotics experience incorporates increasingly complex anatomic lung resections, including sleeve resections, as well as mediastinal operations and esophageal procedures for both cancer and a variety of benign esophageal conditions, such as paraesophageal hernias and achalasia. Many of the patients with benign esophageal conditions  were referred for revisional surgery following previous surgical procedures.

“Finding ways to look at your practice as a surgeon and be introspective about what can be improved is incredibly important,” said Wei. “Robotic-assisted surgery offers a growing avenue for treatment options for our patients.”

UAB’s general thoracic team also offers expertise in airway and chest wall disorders. In collaboration with colleagues in ENT surgery and interventional pulmonology, UAB thoracic surgeons perform complex surgical airway techniques, such as tracheal resection and reconstruction for tracheal stenosis or tumors, and tracheobronchoplasty for patients with tracheomalacia. In the past year, they have introduced a robotic approach to tracehobronchoplasty with excellent initial results.

UAB thoracic surgeons perform an array of chest wall procedures to treat malignant tumors of the ribs and sternum as well as congenital deformities such as pectus excavatum and carinatum. At present, UAB  is the only hospital in Alabama that performs repair of pectus excavatum and carinatum in adults.

“I am incredibly proud of the work that both Dr. Donahue and Dr. Wei have done to advance the division and its program,” said Cardiothoracic Surgery Division Director and Department of Surgery Professor James Davies, M.D.