DENVER – An Atlanta attorney will have surgery next month to remove lung tissue infected with extremely drug-resistant tuberculosis, hospital officials said Thursday.
Andrew Speaker will have surgery at the University of Colorado Hospital in suburban Aurora, but the date has not been set.
Speaker is "an excellent candidate for surgery," said Dr. Charles Daley, head of infectious diseases at National Jewish Medical and Research Center, where Speaker is being treated.
"The infected area of his lung is relatively small and well contained. He is also young and otherwise healthy," Daley said.
The infected area is about the size of a tennis ball, hospital officials said.
"He's doing well," Daley said. "We're looking forward to this next juncture, and so is he. He wants to get this all behind him."
The operation should improve Speaker's chances of recovery by removing most of the tuberculosis organisms in his lungs, leaving fewer that must be killed by antibiotics, National Jewish said in a written statement.
Speaker sparked an international scare when health officials tried to find and isolate him because his strain of TB is considered exceptionally dangerous.
His TB had been diagnosed before he flew to Greece last month for his wedding, but he did not find out until he was in Europe that it was the highly dangerous form.
Once he was told, federal health officials warned him not to fly on commercial aircraft and urged him to turn himself in to health officials in Europe. Instead, Speaker and his bride flew to Montreal, rented a car and managed to drive across the U.S. border, even though officials had flagged his passport.
The operation, to be performed by Dr. John D. Mitchell — chief of general thoracic surgery at the University of Colorado Hospital — will involve inserting surgical instruments and a fiber-optic camera through two small incisions. It should take about two hours, the hospital said.
If the video-assisted technique is not working, Mitchell can enlarge one of the incisions and perform a more traditional operation, the hospital said.
Recovery from the video-assisted surgery could take three to six days, but the time would be longer with the traditional operation.
National Jewish said many patients with drug-resistant tuberculosis show no sign of the disease shortly after similar operations and are able to go home a month later.
The hospital said it could not predict how Speaker would progress or when he might be released.