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Back on Course After 'Safe, Quick, Effective' Robotic Urological Surgery at Memorial

William was always very healthy. He was rarely ill and never went to a doctor. In fact, he didn't even have one.

Then one day last year, William, 45, started feeling some pressure and pain in his abdomen, and soon his back began to hurt.

As a former healthcare professional, William suspected that something was wrong with his kidney. A CAT scan revealed swelling in his pelvic region. His ureter was narrowed at its junction with the kidney, and he had an infection there.

William was told he had a congenital UPJ – a ureteropelvic junction obstruction. Although the narrowed area was no bigger than a centimeter, it had to be removed, and the organ stitched back together. William turned to Dr. Antonio Reyes, a urological surgeon on the medical staff at Memorial Hospital Pembroke, where the Robotic Institute of South Florida has the four-arm da Vinci® Surgical System robotic technology.

Robotics: Tailor-made for Delicate Surgery

The good news for William: His procedure could be performed with less pain, less scarring and a faster recovery using minimally invasive robotic surgery.

In this type of surgery, robotic instruments are inserted into the patient through small openings in the skin. Viewing the surgical site on a 3-D, high-definition screen, the surgeon performs the operation by controlling the instruments, which respond precisely to the doctor's commands.

"There's a lot of utility for robotics in urology, because the area is so delicate," Dr. Reyes says. "In fact, robotic surgery was first approved by the FDA specifically for use in urology." In addition to urologic surgery, gynecological, thoracic and other surgical procedures are also performed using robotic technology at the Robotic Institute of South Florida.

Four to six weeks prior to his surgery, William had to have a stent inserted. The stent was needed to open up the narrowed area of the ureter and relieve the resulting pressure.

"When Dr. Reyes mentioned the stent, I cringed, but it was really the only uncomfortable thing," William says. "The surgery itself was very mild. Without robotics, I would have been slit in the back, with a V-shaped incision 6 to 8 inches long."

Instead, as the patient lay on his left side, Dr. Reyes maneuvered the instruments inside him – "like a pilot with joysticks," William says. The operation took between four and five hours.

"When I woke up in the hospital, I was sore from lying on my side for that long," William says. "But the four incisions themselves were really not very painful. I went home the next morning. And I healed in four to six days instead of four to six weeks."

Advanced Technology, Compassionate Care

William didn't just benefit from the latest in robotic surgical technology. From Dr. Reyes to the OR nurses to the nurses who cared for him afterwards, the team at Memorial Hospital Pembroke was constantly by his side, answering any questions he had. "They were so wonderful to me throughout the entire experience," he says. "My blood pressure never shot up at all."

Dr. Reyes himself briefed William's parents, who had come to Florida from South Carolina for the surgery. "My mom was nervous at first," William says. "But once I got out of surgery, she was fine. Having all the information you need helps you through whatever procedure you're having. Dr. Reyes and the caring staff at Memorial sure helped me and my family through."

A Revolutionary Form of Surgery

After the stent was removed, an ultrasound showed that William's kidney was not permanently damaged. Now recovered, he's kept a resolution to take up golf again. He spends every Monday and Friday on the course.

"Robotics is definitely the way of the future, especially for delicate procedures like mine," he says. "I would recommend this type of surgery to anyone facing my situation. I'd say, don't fear it. At Memorial, my experience was safe and effective, and my recovery was quick."


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