Surgeons: At the Edge of Life • 2018 • 1 episode • 2h:55m

Most people will have an operation in their lifetime, but few of us have a clue what really happens once we are put to sleep. This series goes beyond the theatre doors of the surgical unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, where 700 operations are carried out every week, across 42 specialist theatres. Whilst many operations are vital but routine, this series focuses on some of the country's top surgeons as they perform high-stakes surgery that simply wouldn't have been attempted a few years ago, pushing the boundaries of modern medicine to its very limits. Unprecedented opportunities to save lives offer surgeons the chance to develop their astonishing skills - but also carry daunting risks and responsibilities. A dark sense of humour, a cool head and extraordinary levels of accomplishment are the tools of the trade.

The Pioneers

Many clinical trials target the nation's most acute health issues. With deaths from liver disease soaring by 40 per cent in a decade, more and more patients are waiting for vital liver transplants. There is a shortage of organ donors and many donated organs are rejected as only those in excellent condition are considered suitable for a transplant procedure. Surgeons Richard Laing and Thamara Perera are part of a team at QEHB trialling a revolutionary way to tackle this crisis, by maximising the number of donor organs that can be safely re-used. The film follows the trial every step of the way, as Richard receives a donor liver that would usually be rejected and tries to prove it is viable for transplant by rejuvenating and testing it on a perfusion machine. This machine sustains the liver by mimicking the supply of blood, oxygen and nutrients an organ receives inside a live, healthy human body. Once the donor liver has proved itself fit for transplant, the surgical team start to remove grandmother Connie O'Driscoll's severely diseased liver. Once the donor liver has been disconnected from the perfusion machine, they have just 20 minutes to place it in Connie's body and plumb it into the complex and delicate network of hepatic blood vessels.

3/3 • 2018 • Health