Robotic Prostate Surgery Helps Men Battling Cancer

urology_davinciDr. Kenneth Thomas and his surgical team prep their patient for a robotic assist laparoscopic prostatectomy, the removal of the prostate, and then he tells his team, “Alright, the robot is docked…”   He’s referring to the da Vinci Robot, Dr. Thomas’ ‘right-hand man’ (or rather ‘right-hand robot’).  OCH Regional Medical Center has the only da Vinci Si Surgical System in the area.

The robot consists of three instrument arms which directly contact the patient and one laparoscope arm to view inside the body. These arms dock to trocars inserted into small incisions in the patient’s body.  The trocars function as a portal for the robotic arms and camera or laparoscope.  Now it’s time for surgery to begin, and Dr. Thomas walks five feet away from his patient and sits down at the surgeon console to operate.

The surgeon console is a separate unit where the doctor controls the robotic arms while viewing a three-dimensional, high definition, magnified version of the inside of the body. At the surgeon console, Dr. Thomas maneuvers the robotic arms with 540 degrees of articulation, far greater than the human wrist.  Any hand tremor is filtered resulting in precise movements of the instruments.

“This robotic system has revolutionized prostate cancer surgery.  We as surgeons are seeing things now that we haven’t seen before,” said Dr. Thomas.  “Because of the magnification, we stand a better chance of identifying and sparing the nerves that help with erections.  The recovery from any robotic surgery is quick and gets patients back to their normal routine faster.  For prostate cancer, the robotic prostatectomy is now the most common treatment.”

Procedures using the da Vinci surgical system result in shorter hospital stays, quicker recovery times, faster return to normal activity and work, less pain and decreased blood loss.   In contrast to conventional surgical methods, which require a large 6-10 inch incision, patients undergoing da Vinci surgeries have several ½ inch (key-hole) incisions through which surgery is performed.

“Before this, patients who had open surgery for prostate cancer were in the hospital for three days,” said Dr. Thomas.  “Now, we can get the patient out of surgery faster and home the next day.  This makes our patients happy, and when they’re happy, we’re happy.”

James Doss is one of those patients.  “I’m glad I chose to have the robotic-assisted surgery.  Dr. Thomas gave me three weeks to get back on my feet, but I was up walking that same day,” said Doss. “Now I’m feeling better than I did before the surgery.”

Tom (last name has been omitted for privacy reasons) had his surgery the week before Christmas and was able to recover in time for the holidays.  “I felt good about the fact that OCH had the latest type of technology, and I knew that my recovery time would be minimized because it is less invasive,” said Tom. “People may think you have to go to a big city to have this done, but you don’t.  We have this right here in Starkville.  I had complete confidence in Dr. Thomas. He is well-trained with the da Vinci Robot.”

Joe Hubbard believes Dr. Thomas and his robot assistant saved his life.  “I had prostate cancer, and now I’m jumping for joy because I’m cancer free,” said Hubbard.  He opted for the robotic assisted surgery to avoid a long recovery time.  “I only had four little spots where they cut me.  I had surgery on Tuesday, and Sunday I was back at church.”

“This is the best way to take care of our patients,” said Dr. Thomas. “Robotics is where surgery is going, and OCH has the state-of-the-art equipment to provide the best care available to our area.”

The da Vinci Si Surgical System arrived at OCH in October 2011.  Since then, doctors have performed urological and gynecological surgeries using the machine.  For more information about these procedures read next week’s article or call the OCH Marketing/PR Department at 662-615-3067.

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