Amir Qureshi Interview | behind the BBC2 documentary

Imagine performing four vital surgeries in one nine-hour operation to repair a patient’s ability to walk without pain. Now imagine doing it in front of television cameras. BBC Two’s popular documentary series Surgeons: At the Edge of Life returns this month and features Medbelle surgeon Amir Qureshi as he and a team of colleagues perform an extraordinary series of procedures.

Amir Qureshi Interview | behind the BBC2 documentary

We caught up with Amir to find out more.

How did this come about?

I had a patient whose condition was worsening to the point where we decided a particularly complex procedure was needed, in order to reduce their pain as quickly and safely as possible. The documentary makers were looking for interesting or challenging cases at the hospital to demonstrate the varied nature of surgery, and this seemed like a good fit.

What was the procedure?

This was an osteotomy patient. An osteotomy is where a bone is reshaped or resized in cases where a deformity or other condition means that a joint is not working as it should. As you can imagine, having a joint in the leg not working can be really debilitating - and this patient had the condition in both of their legs. So they were already in pain, and it was getting worse.

Meet Amir Qureshi

Amir Qureshi is an award-winning consultant orthopaedic surgeon specialising in knee and lower limb conditions and procedures. He was awarded The Wessex Trainer of the Year awards in consecutive years...

Amir Qureshi 1_1

And why was it so complex?

Because both of their legs required treatment, I sought plenty of advice, and decided with the help of colleagues that the safest approach would be to operate on both legs in one go. Our concern was that only operating on one leg would mean that while it healed the other leg would be taking even more weight, causing a breakage and making the situation much worse.

Had you done this before?

Not in one go. It’s fairly common to operate on a femur and tibia (upper and lower leg bones) in one go, but to do so on both legs is a lot more rare - and of course it’s not two procedures but four, as two repairs are required for each leg.

Medbelle Amir Interview Doctors Planning

How do you prepare for something like this?

Any osteotomy requires a lot of preparation - and a lot of collaboration - long before picking up a scalpel. We planned meticulously and spoke to numerous engineers in different companies in order to find the most suitable jigs. Those are templates that are used in the operation to make things as accurate as possible.

Again, these jigs are not just thrown together in a hurry. They involve CT scans to make a 3D model of the patient’s bones and joints, which are then used to make bespoke templates for that individual.

Read more about Osteotomies

How did the surgery go?

It all went well and my patient is now making a good recovery. It was a nine-hour operation in total, which required a lot of patience and concentration, and ultimately it would not have been possible without all that preparation beforehand.

"You have to treat every single surgery as if you’re being filmed because to the patient it could be the most significant few hours of their life."

And how did the filming aspect go?

The crew were excellent, we got pre-operative pictures and they spoke to me and the patient, and it was all done with a minimum of intrusion. They then came to interview me in more detail a few weeks after the operation. I think I found the interview more of a challenge than the operation to be honest! It was four hours of questions, and lots of repetition to make sure they got plenty of options for the edit.

Was it exciting or would you rather just get on with the job?

You’ve got to just treat it as another day at the office. Every surgery requires your total preparation and concentration. You have to treat every single surgery as if you’re being filmed because to the patient it could be the most significant few hours of their life.

I’m glad I had the opportunity to take part because there could be other people who have similar deformities who are unaware that it’s something we can treat. A lot of people assume it’s just one of those things, and they suffer in silence. If this documentary helps just one person living in pain to see their doctor and find out if something can be done about it, then it was worthwhile.

BBC2's Surgeons: At the Edge of Life

This documentary series highlights top surgeons in the UK, with Series 6 focusing on the University of Southampton Hospital. Episode 3, airing on April 10th, 2024, features Consultant Orthopaedic Surgeon Amir Qureshi and his expertise in knee procedures.

Medbelle Doctors In Surgery

Did this procedure represent something quite unusual for you?

Yes and no. I had never done so many in one go, but every procedure is just as important to the patient. Other common procedures I’ll do include bone realignment and meniscus repair - that’s the cartilage around the knee. Meniscus repairs are my biggest area of speciality and almost half of these procedures at University Hospital Southampton are performed by me.

What do meniscus repairs involve?

It’s actually something that’s changed in recent years, and we’re at the forefront of new developments as well. For many years, an injured meniscus would just be cut out which would help short term but create instabilities and increase the risk of arthritis, so it’s better to replace the cartilage.

I run one of the few cartilage centres in the UK - we can provide a biological solution to cartilage injury, by taking some unneeded cartilage from the patient, growing it in the lab, and inserting it where it is needed. This really is the gold standard of cartilage replacement, and it’s a good example of using different medical specialities to care for a patient - so it’s not just about the traditional surgical realignment or reshaping, but also about a biological solution.

Thank you Amir for the taking time to share this interesting story with us

If you enjoyed our conversation with Amir, take a look at some of our other interviews with surgeons in our network!

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