August 28, 2023
For pioneering a new approach to anesthesia for cancer patients, Dr. Timur Ozelsel of the Cross Cancer Institute has been recognized as Physician Innovator of the Year by the Edmonton Medical Staff Association.
“I felt far less groggy and tired than other surgeries,” recalls cancer patient Carie Fargey-Scott. “I had very little pain and no nausea. I also managed my pain mostly with over-the-counter painkillers and barely used the narcotic I was prescribed.”.
Dr. Timur Ozelsel administers anesthesia in the OR.
Story by Jennifer Green
EDMONTON — Cancer patients seeking innovative solutions often turn to Dr. Timur Ozelsel, site chief of anesthesia at the Cross Cancer Institute. His revolutionary approach in using local anesthesia during surgery is seeing patients with fewer side effects, faster discharges and better outcomes.
While his expertise lies outside oncologic anesthesia, his passion for making a difference led him to explore new frontiers during the challenging COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic posed unprecedented challenges, particularly regarding the spread of the virus through airway manipulation during general anesthesia. Dr. Ozelsel took the initiative to address these concerns by teaming up with Dr. Ezekiel Weis, an ocular brachytherapy surgeon.
Together, they devised a groundbreaking technique that involved transitioning patients from general anesthesia to monitored anesthesia care. With this approach, patients remained conscious while receiving local anesthesia for their surgery, leading to exceptional results.
Encouraged by the success of this method, Dr. Ozelsel approached Dr. Nikoo Rajaee, a breast cancer surgeon, with a proposal to expand their new approach. Today, by combining their efforts, they are also achieving remarkable results in breast cancer surgeries.
For pioneering this method, Dr. Ozelsel was recently recognized as Physician Innovator of the Year 2022 by the Edmonton Medical Staff Association.
One beneficiary of his work is Carie Fargey-Scott, who experienced this new technique during her double-mastectomy surgery. “Initially, I was apprehensive about the approach. I was scared of being aware during the procedure or having increased pain.”
However, once she received the sedation, she found the experience no different from being under general anesthesia. She appreciated that Dr. Ozelsel had informed her that she might wake up during the procedure, with the surgeon still suturing or dressing the wounds, so she knew what to expect.
After the surgery, she recalls: “I felt far less groggy and tired than other surgeries. I had very little pain and no nausea. I also managed my pain mostly with over-the-counter painkillers and barely used the narcotic I was prescribed."
"We were highly successful from Day 1," says Dr. Ozelsel. "Our patients not only remained safe throughout the procedures, but they also experienced better outcomes with faster recoveries."
Dr. Ozelsel emphasizes that their method offers all the benefits of general anesthesia without the undesirable side effects.
To date, patients reported fewer instances of pain, nausea and vomiting, which has led to faster discharges and an increase in surgical output. Remarkably, this surge in efficiency was achieved without the need for additional personnel resources.
The resounding success of their approach has seen its use expand to various cancer surgeries, including ocular and gynecological brachytherapy, vulva, vagina, and anal surgeries, laser resurfacing for burn scars and urologic procedures.
For patients like Fargey-Scott, the benefits are significant. "My recovery has been much easier and faster with less pain overall. In my opinion, the number-one advantage is if patients are able to avoid narcotics, it's so much easier on their bodies and lessens the chance of dependency.”
Dr. Ozelsel adds: “While our method is not yet the gold standard, we have high hopes that it will pave the way for a new era in cancer surgery. Our success has been tremendous, and we envision a future where this approach becomes the norm."