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Donors Help Provide Life-Saving, State-of-the-Art Equipment



In November, during an elk hunting trip with friends, Frank Hlavka experienced cold and hot flashes that would last nearly an hour and then disappear. It was odd for the Sherburn, Minn., man.

“At Thanksgiving time I got very sharp pains on my right side under my ribs,” he said. “I knew then that there was something wrong.”

He visited Sanford Acute Care where a CT scan found a mass on his liver. Blood work and a liver biopsy confirmed that the grapefruit-sized tumor on the right side of his liver was cancer – chololangiocarcinoma.

On Dec. 26, Dr. Thav Thambi, Surgical Director of the Sanford Transplant Center, performed a right hepatic lobectomy, removing the right lobe of the liver.

Thambi said the liver is a primary organ and the right lobe makes up about 60 percent of the liver volume. “If you look at it, the liver is a bag full of blood,” he said.

It’s difficult to operate on the liver because surgery can cause loss of blood and risk more damage to the liver and potentially affect the body, Thambi said.

Hlavka’s tumor occupied most of the right lobe of the liver and was close to a blood vessel supplying the liver. Thambi needed to remove the tumor without disrupting the liver’s primary function. Fortunately, new microwave ablation equipment was available in part through gifts to the Sanford Health Foundation’s cancer funds. The state-of-the-art tool kills tumor cells under direct vision or using ultrasound.

Stan Gartner, CRNA, Director of Surgical Services, said the probe can also be inserted into a tumor. The surgeon can then use microwaves to destroy the tumor cells without much damage to surrounding tissue. Historically, a large portion of tissue would have needed to be removed with great potential for increased blood loss, Gartner said.

Although Hlavka’s treatment will continue with radiation and chemotherapy, he has a stronger chance of survival because of this new equipment. He left the hospital four days after this major surgery.

“Every day since my surgery I am feeling better and stronger,” Hlavka said. “My recovery time has been remarkable.”

To support Sanford’s Cancer Center of Excellence, visit foundation.sanfordhealth.org.

Posted Date: April 2013

Donors Help Provide Life-Saving, State-of-the-Art Equipment

In November, during an elk hunting trip with friends, Frank Hlavka experienced cold and hot flashes.