Tuberculosis Patient Prepares For Surgery

Tuesday, July 17th 2007, 10:58 am
By: News On 6

DENVER (AP) _ Andrew Speaker, the tuberculosis patient who sparked an international public health scare by traveling overseas in May, will undergo surgery Tuesday to remove a diseased portion of his right lung, health officials said.

Dr. John D. Mitchell, chief of general thoracic surgery, plans to remove an infected area about the size of a tennis ball during the procedure at the University of Colorado Hospital.

Speaker, a 31-year-old Atlanta lawyer, is being treated at National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver, which specializes in TB. National Jewish and CU have a long-standing program to jointly treat patients with tuberculosis and other diseases.

Speaker told CNN the operation would remove the upper lobe of his right lung with the expectation that it would rid him of the disease.

Doctors at National Jewish have described Speaker as ``an excellent candidate'' for surgery, and Speaker said it would give him peace of mind.

``If you're developing TB, even after your treatment, it can come back,'' Speaker told CNN. ``With the amount of treatment I'm going to be on, the doctor said, 'If you go ahead and have the surgery, you don't have to worry 10 years from now or 20 years from now or 30 years now if it's ever going to come back.'''

Speaker became the focus of a federal investigation and an international uproar when he went ahead with a wedding trip in Europe after health officials said they had advised him not to fly. He also became the first American quarantined by the federal government since 1963 before being taken to National Jewish.

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in May that tests had indicated Speaker had extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, or XDR-TB, which is extremely difficult to treat. This month, Speaker's doctors said subsequent testing had found only the less dangerous multidrug-resistant TB.