The Belize Gastroenterology and Endoscopy Center in Belize City made history this week and a giant leap in medical services for the country. They announced the services of Belizean Dr. Victor Lizarraga Jr., Assistant Professor of Urology at Baylor College of Medicine Houston Texas, USA. His expertise comes with a very sophisticated laser machine that basically shoots laser beams at kidney stones.
Dr. Victor Lizaraga, Urologist/Surgeon, treats problems with the kidneys, bladder and the urinary system in general with the new Holmium Laser Lithotripsy machine now installed at Dr. Irvin Gabourel’s clinic in Belize City. It will allow true minimally invasive kidney stone surgery for the first time in the country.
“We have been working very hard to build that capacity here in Belize,” commented Dr. Lizaraga on the absence of the laser surgery service in the country. “It’s a lot of different technologies that have been brought to Belize and the major part is the Holmium system which is the surgical laser used to fragment stones.”
Endourology involves surgery that does not need incisions; its all endoscopic through the natural openings of the body to access various parts of the urinary system. The benefits of using the laser include treating stones inside the kidney; allowing very good fragmentation of any urinary track stone anywhere in the urinary track which is key of doing this type of surgery safely. It is efficient, less invasive and there is less recovery time. Dr. Lizaraga states that depending on the case, most patients can go home at the end of the day after the laser surgery.
Every person has a 10% chance in their lifetime of developing a kidney stone.
“I would wish that I would never have to do kidney surgery on anybody for a stone, because it causes a lot of discomfort; it is very painful,” stated Dr. Lizaraga. “The symptoms you would experience would be back pain, blood in the urine, burning while urinating, recurrent infections. The most important thing to prevent kidney stones is hydration. Kidney stones form when urine is too concentrated with crystals. Drinking lots of water will flush the kidney and keeping your urine pale.”
“It’s very common in Belize; out of ten men one will be affected by kidney stones and it causes a lot of disability, a lot of pain, kidney failure, kidney loss, life-threatening infection. As diets get richer, kidney stones get more common,” stated Dr. Lizaraga.
The closest place to have this type of laser surgery was in Guatemala or Merida, Mexico. Too many Belizeans find the need to travel outside the country for urology services and other surgical procedures. Dr. Irvin Gabourel has been working with local, regional and international doctors/physicians at his clinic to provide these professional services so that Belizeans do not have to be inconvenienced by traveling abroad.
“The cost of the surgical technology is expensive anywhere you go,” commented Dr. Gabourel. “So you will pay pretty much about the same, for example in Merida as compared to here. But traveling to Merida, Guatemala or the U.S. incurs far more expenses in travel, food, and accommodations. We offer the same technology, professional services and some of the best surgeons in the field in the region. You spend far less money, are at home and have the security of being with your loved ones who can be with you at the clinic.”
With little access to the laser surgery in the region, Belize is to gain from medical tourism with the influx of patients traveling into the country to seek treatment. Dr. Lizaraga stated that the goal is to create a center of excellence in Belize City, not only for patients of the Belize Gastroenterology and Endoscopy Center, but other facilities in the nation.
“This is only one small part of endourology; there are lots of other things I use routinely in my practice abroad that I would like to have here in Belize for Belizeans. In other specialties the physicians in Belize are excellent, they are just limited by technology. The more technology we have, the more of these tools we bring in, the better we can serve all Belizeans with multiple types of problems.”
For more information about the kidney stone laser surgery and all other services provided at the Belize Belize Gastroenterology and Endoscopy Center call 223-4666 or 223-7461 for appointments.