Prostate cancer is newly diagnosed in over 200,000 men across the U.S. every year. In 2013, the Center for Disease Control released new data showing 1 in 6 men over the age of 60 would be diagnosed with prostate cancer before his 70th birthday. Fortunately, advances in robotic medicine have greatly increased the remission rates of prostate cancer treatment while also improving the long term quality of life of patients post prostatectomy.
The Old Days
In previous years, the removal of the prostate was a largely invasive surgery. Patients had to deal with large incisions which lead to increased bleeding and scarring. Post-operative complications with the surgery included bleeding, infection, and nerve damage that caused urinary incontinence and impotence. According to Dr. Gillock, “though patients had high remission rates post-surgery, their quality of life suffered as many patients found the long-term side effects emasculating.”
Thanks to the rise in popularity of laparoscopic techniques and robotic technology, a new approach to prostatectomy, called the da Vinci system, has come to the forefront because of its precision and efficiency. Robotic-assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy (RALRP) is revolutionizing surgical outcomes for patients.
How It Works
RALRP is performed through the use of a robotic arm that is networked to a digital interfacing system. The robotic arm is navigated by the surgeon who is seated at the controls only a few steps away from the patient’s side. Using the robotic arm, the surgeon is able to place a small, precise incision. The interface allows the surgeon to clearly visualize the tissue and only make cuts where it is necessary without causing unneeded trauma to the healthy tissue. This is a crucial difference from traditional surgery because the robotic arm is able to rotate 360 degrees and perfectly cut the right tissues. This precision is unattainable with the traditional scalpel method. This maneuverability is thought to be the key behind the decreased risk of impotence post-operatively because of the gained ability to keep the abdominal nerves intact while removing the prostate, unlike older methods which often resulted in the cutting of these nerves. In addition to nerve preservation, this technique greatly reduces bleeding, scarring, and pain. The procedure can be completed start to finish in less than one hour and can be performed as same day surgery in most cases.
Dr. Gillock notes, “patients in the Staunton area can expect a fairly comfortable recovery after RALRP.” Intra-operatively the surgeon will insert a Foley catheter into the patient’s urethra that will allow the urine to drain from the bladder into a discreet bag. The catheter will remain in place for 5-7 days after surgery. The patient will be provided instructions for emptying and caring for the catheter at home. Patients will also be provided with pain medication to take home and a list of hazardous symptoms that should be reported to their surgeon or emergency medical services.
Patients who undergo RALRP can expect a much shorter overall recovery. Patients should be able to return to their normal activities within a week of surgery. Many patients see a restoration of erectile function within six months of surgery, and only a very small percentage of patients suffer from sustained urinary incontinence. We encourage patients to speak with their Blue Ridge Urological specialist if there is any new onset of urinary or erectile complications.
To learn more about this procedure or to schedule a consultation with one of our urologists, call Blue Ridge Urological Associates today and our friendly staff will be happy to assist you!