Mary Stuart | October 12, 2017
Albert Huang, MD, has always been an inventor. Growing up, he would tinker with cars and motorcycles and rebuild old audio equipment, he says, and that desire to fix things is why he chose general surgery among all medical specialties.
While participating in abdominal and pelvic surgeries as a surgery resident, on more than one occasion Huang became aware of the time and energy it took to identify the ureter, the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the urinary bladder, which is necessary so that surgeons can take steps to avoid inadvertently damaging it. There was constant checking and rechecking, he says, to determine, “Is that the structure? Am I getting close to it?”
The ureter is difficult to find because it is located in the retroperitoneum. It’s behind a layer of tissues at the back of the abdominal wall, where it is very close to organs that are the targets of abdominal and pelvic surgeries; the colon and the ovaries, for example. There are approximately 3 million surgeries that pose a risk to the ureter, including gynecological and colorectal surgeries (and, to a lesser extent, vascular, urological and cancer-related procedures). The risk is highest for minimally-invasive procedures, which prevent surgeons from directly palpating tissue.