Robotic-Assisted Surgery

A church pastor for more than 30 years, Cliff Woodman was accustomed to visiting hospitals. When he was diagnosed with colon cancer, however, the avid motorcyclist, husband and father of two wanted to get back to his flock – and his motorcycle – as soon as possible.

To minimize the normal pain, tenderness and general fatigue that occur after surgery, Cliff's surgeon, Lawrence Mendelow, MD, suggested robotic-assisted colon surgery.

"Laparoscopic surgery is minimally invasive, resulting in shorter hospital stays and fewer complications," said Dr. Mendelow, a colon and rectal surgeon at Missouri Baptist Medical Center. "Robotic-assisted surgery is an extension of the laparoscopic procedure but with significant advantages."

In robotic-assisted surgery, the surgeon performs the operation by controlling the movements of the robot's "hands" to manipulate the surgical instruments and the high definition camera. The robot performs the surgeon's actions more precisely than human hands or traditional laparoscopic surgery instruments because the robot has greater dexterity and range of motion. The robotic system also provides greater visibility for the surgeon.

"The system lets me put my camera right where it needs to be. I can see the operating field like I'm holding it in my hands," Dr. Mendelow said. "It's much more precise."

Robotic-assisted surgery helped Cliff Woodman get back to cycling and the pulpit faster

Dr. Mendelow's patients, similar to Cliff, who undergo robotic-assisted surgery have an average hospital stay of less than three days. This is less than the national average of four days for laparoscopic surgery or seven days for traditional open surgery. Robotic-assisted surgeries also result in less pain, less blood loss, and a faster return to normal activities.

However, robotic-assisted surgeries are not appropriate for every patient or every surgery. For example, patients with significant scar tissue would not be good candidates. It is also not appropriate for emergency surgeries. While not every case is suitable for robotic-assisted surgery, for those that are, like Cliff's colon cancer, Dr. Mendelow believes it is the best option.

"The less invasive operation made recovery so much better. I was up walking in less than a day and out of the hospital in two days," Cliff said. "I only missed preaching one Sunday and I was back on my motorcycle in two weeks."

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