The Hong Kong doctors who failed to fix the shattered jaw of Manila hostage victim Yik Siu-ling were yesterday defended by the Taiwanese surgeon who came to her rescue.
"Please don't just focus on this one incident of failure," said Dr Wei Fu-chan, a leading expert in reconstructive microsurgery who was in the city to attend a forum at Hong Kong University.
"There are no 100 per cent success rates in any kind of operation. There are many factors out of the doctor's control. For example, sometimes a patient's blood vessels are in too bad a condition and we can't do anything." He urged people to look at the broader statistics.
Dr Jimmy Chan Yu-wai, a plastic surgery specialist at Queen Mary Hospital, said that, overall, the failure rate for such "fibula-flap" surgery in Hong Kong was comparable to Taiwan and other developed countries at 3 to 4 per cent.
A fibula flap transfer involves taking part of the fibula bone, skin, nerves, muscle and arteries from the lower leg and transplanting them to the face and neck.
Wei and his team at Chang Gung Memorial Hospital spent more than 10 hours last month rebuilding Yik's lower jawbone and surrounding skin tissue, where she was shot in the face by gunman Rolando Mendoza on August 23, 2010. Eight hostages were killed, along with Mendoza.
Wei said that Yik would probably have new dentures fitted within six months.
Wei also said he did not believe allegations that hospital administrators in the city had put pressure on doctors to delay surgery because of concerns about media coverage - with the result that Yik suffered unnecessarily.
Hong Kong doctors would not put the welfare of their patients at risk, he said, adding it was "not necessary to do this [procedure] on an emergency basis".