The 46-year-old patient, Lucica Bunghez, suffers from neurofibromatosis, a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on the body. Her tumor, which covers much of her back and runs halfway down her thighs, weighs twice as much as she would weigh without it — 88 pounds, doctors said.
A former cake seller from the Transylvanian city of Brasov, Bunghez has been bedridden and unable to care for herself for three years due to the growing tumor, which absorbs blood and nutrients like a giant parasite.
The medical team, led by Dr. McKay McKinnon, a reconstructive surgeon from the University of Chicago Hospital, was expected to take 15 to 20 hours, said Dr. Ioan Lascar, a Romanian doctor assisting in the surgery.
Lascar said there is a risk of massive hemorrhaging when the giant tumor is cut away from the body.
McKinnon, who is accompanied by another American surgeon, two anesthesiologists and two nurses, offered his services for free after the Romanian government said it could not afford the $300,000 needed to send Bunghez to the United States for the surgery.
The medical team said it was the second-largest tumor ever to be surgically removed — an operation the Romanian medical establishment was unable to handle without outside expertise and equipment.
In 2000, McKinnon removed a 200-pound tumor caused by the same disorder from a woman in Wyoming.
On Tuesday, the U.S. team and Lascar successfully operated on a 19-year-old Romanian woman who was suffering from a facial tumor caused by neurofibromatosis.
The Discovery Health channel was filming the operation, which was taking place at Bucharest's Emergency Hospital.