A Birmingham pensioner has become the first person in the Midlands to benefit from a new keyhole procedure to remove a cancerous bladder.
John Busk, a retired builder, was diagnosed with bladder cancer last May, and although chemotherapy shrunk the tumours, subsequent courses of radiotherapy and immunotherapy failed to clear it.
The 74-year-old, who lives in Northfield, agreed to "be a guinea pig" for a laproscopic cystectomy which had never been performed in a Midlands hospital before.
Alan Doherty, consultant urological surgeon at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in Edgbaston, admitted Mr Busk was "a brave bloke" for agreeing to be the first patient to undergo the procedure, which was performed on April 18.
He explained this will revolutionise the surgical treatment of bladder cancer, which previously was confined to open surgery which presented a higher risk of complications than cardiac procedures.
Mr Doherty removed a bladder using keyhole surgery, which he described as being the equivalent of getting off his bike and driving a car.
"Given that it was the first time we had used this technique, it went extremely well. In fact, it went more smoothly that I thought it might.
"Operating on the bladder laparoscopically will definitely be the first option for our patients from now on," he said.
"It is the biggest urological procedure we do and the riskiest, carrying the same mortality rate as open heart surgery."
Mr Busk took his part in making medical history at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital quite calmly - and was particularly pleased to be able to go home less than a week after the operation.
"I'd tried everything else, and my bladder was no good so it made sense to take it out, but I was amazed at how q uickly I had recovered'," he said.
"I've never been special so this makes quite a change for me.
"I was told that my operation would be a little unconventional but Mr Doherty would revert to the traditional way of doing the operation if he needed to.
"I was sitting up in bed the day after the operation and was allowed out for a few days the following weekend, and a friend was able to take me out for a pint or two, which is something I never expected.
"It's a good feeling, having your independence back, it's made a remarkable difference to my life already."
The new keyhole procedure has only been performed in a handful of other hospitals in the country until now. Previously, the only surgical option for bladder cancer patients was a major operation which meant opening up the lower body.
"Due to the nature of the operation it carries high risks of infection, and the patient usually requires a spell in intensive care after the operation and spends up to three weeks in hospital recovering, which can make them more vulnerable to infections like MRSA," added Mr Doherty.
"But doing the same procedure laparoscopically is very different.
"We only make four small cuts so the risk of infection is much lower.
"We don't expect patients to require intensive care and we expect patients to be able to go home after a week. I expect the outcomes from this technique, compared with traditional open surgery, will be much better.
"The difference is quite dramatic. "I am really excited about what this means we can do for our patients.
"It's fantastic to be able to offer such a step change in improved care. It's the surgical equivalent of getting off your bike and driving away in a car, it's that much better."
Each year between 20 and 25 patients at the QE, run by University Hospital Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, need to have their bladders removed but Mr Doherty expects two-thirds will be able to benefit from the new keyhole technique.