Raving About The Robot
Local patients experience less pain and faster recovery with the da Vinci surgical system
Kathleen Smith, a mother of three in Potomac, went to her doctor every six months for routine exams. After numerous findings of precancerous cells and attempts to clear the problem, her youngest daughter persuaded her to see Shady Grove Adventist Hospital gynecologist Carolynn Young, M.D.
“My daughter was her patient first and she raved about her,” says Smith, 52.
After speaking to Dr. Young, Smith faced two options: a conservative procedure to remove the cells, taking out only part of her uterus, or a complete hysterectomy. Smith initially did not want to undergo a hysterectomy because of concerns about the time she might have to take off from work. Her history of precancerous cells and her oldest daughter’s diagnosis with ovarian cancer at 16, however, led her to choose a hysterectomy.
“After I made the decision, Dr. Young said, ‘I think you are making the right decision,’ and that made me feel better,” Smith says.
In July, Dr. Young performed Smith’s hysterectomy using the da Vinci robotic surgical system at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital in Rockville. During surgery, the da Vinci makes tiny incisions in the body and inserts miniaturized instruments and a high-definition camera. The surgeon sits at a nearby console and operates the robot, which translates his or her hand, wrist and finger movements into precise, real-time movements of surgical instruments.
“The visualization is so fantastic because the camera magnifies it 10 times and the instruments allow for excellent articulation,” Dr. Young says. “As a physician, I can work at an amazing angle and make movements in a very precise manner.”
Delightfully Uneventful Recovery
Dr. Young emphasizes that the da Vinci is having a tremendous positive effect on gynecological procedures by allowing most of her patients to return home the day after surgery and return to work within two weeks.
“In a case like Kathleen’s, I was able to use the da Vinci to help address a potentially serious health issue and get her back home and on the road to a quick recovery,” Dr. Young says.
Smith left the hospital less than 24 hours after her one-hour surgery. She says that the recovery went better than she expected and that she was able to use stairs within a day of her surgery. She also experienced little pain and no need for the painkillers she was prescribed.
“I’m very happy that the recovery was as uneventful as it was,” says Smith, who spent her second week of recovery at the beach with her parents in North Carolina.
Benefits for Other Conditions
Faster recovery is also noted among other surgeons who use the da Vinci for urologic and thoracic cancers, as well as general surgeries.
“Patients with complex prostate cancer cases are often walking the day of surgery,” says Michael Isaacson, M.D., urologist at Shady Grove Adventist Hospital. “They go home from the hospital in one day and have their catheters removed after a week. That is one-third the time typically seen in open prostatectomy cases.”
This quick recovery held true for 68-yearold Maurice Diggs of Silver Spring, who went home the day after a robotically assisted prostatectomy with the da Vinci at Washington Adventist Hospital in Takoma Park.
This was Diggs’ second robotic surgery with Jonathan Rhee, M.D., urologist at Washington Adventist Hospital. Diggs was sent to Dr. Rhee for further testing after his primary care physician found signs of an enlarged prostate. A biopsy revealed cancerous problems with his prostate and his kidney. Diggs and his wife of 46 years, Leigh, sat down with Dr. Rhee to discuss their options.
“Of course, the first thing you think about when you’re told you have cancer is, there’s a chance I’m leaving this earth,” Diggs says. “But I felt confident in Dr. Rhee’s knowledge and skills dealing with both prostate and kidney cancers, so I thought I’d take my chance with him.”
Technology Comes Through Again
One option was minimally invasive surgery using the da Vinci surgical system. “I’ve always been drawn to new technology,” Diggs says. “I liked that the da Vinci surgery was minimally invasive, and offered increased precision and accuracy for removing cancerous tumors.”
“Compared with traditional surgery methods, the da Vinci offers patients less scarring, less pain and a quicker return to normal life,” says Dr. Rhee, who is fellowship-trained on the da Vinci and has been performing robotically assisted surgeries since 2005.
Before his prostatectomy, Diggs was given injections to control his prostate while he had a tumor removed from his kidney using the da Vinci.
On Aug. 24, Diggs underwent his prostatectomy using the da Vinci at Washington Adventist Hospital. Within 24 hours, Diggs was able to go home.
“The best news I got was that the cancer did not spread anywhere,” Diggs says.
A Flexible Option for Surgery
In addition to prostate and gynecological cancers, the da Vinci can treat a variety of other medical conditions including kidney and bladder cancers. It can also treat endometriosis, uterine fibroids and pelvic floor conditions.
“It is great that we can offer the da Vinci as a surgical option for our patients,” Dr. Rhee says. “I want to see my patients get back to their healthy and active lives, and the da Vinci is another way to make this happen.”