Nothing about a cancer diagnosis is easy. But when Phil Hicks learned he had prostate cancer last year, the decision about what kind of surgery to have was, in fact, a cinch.
His doctor – urologist and director of St. Elizabeth’s Robotic Surgery Program, Dr. J.D. Williams – explained that minimally invasive surgery with the da Vinci robot offers tremendous short- and long-term advantages to people like Hicks.
"He explained to me that by using the da Vinci I would be out of the hospital after an overnight stay, barring any complications. So, I had my surgery in the morning, and by noon the next day I was discharged after an easy overnight stay," says the 59-year-old Villa Hills retiree.
"The other way they do the surgery is to make a larger incision, so you’re in the hospital for possibly a week. So it was really an easy decision after talking to Dr. Williams about it."
Like hundreds of other St. Elizabeth Healthcare robotic surgery patients, Hicks recovered quickly and fully. That’s a fact that goes a long way in explaining why St. Elizabeth has so greatly expanded since acquiring the organization’s first surgical robot two years ago.
Big Surgical Benefits Drive Expanded Use of Robot at St. Elizabeth
Today there are three da Vinci surgical systems in use continually at St. Elizabeth Edgewood and Fort Thomas, where trained surgeons provide an array of procedures from prostate, kidney, bladder and gynecologic surgery, to cardiac and lung procedures.
In fact, St. Elizabeth now has one of the fastest growing programs in the country, Williams said. "In the first six months of this year, we actually did more robotic surgeries than open heart procedures at St. Elizabeth," he says. "That’s because multiple specialties are now using the da Vinci – not just gynecologic and urologic, but general surgeons have been using it and have found it to be especially beneficial to their patients."
Williams says the growth in robotic surgery at St. Elizabeth Healthcare is directly related to the benefits it offers patients. People like Hicks are walking, talking testimonials to those benefits, including:
- Less pain after surgery
- Less blood loss during surgery
- Reduced risk of infection
- Faster overall recovery
- Shorter hospital stay
Surgical Patients Love Robot’s Big Benefits
Williams says that as people have learned about the marked benefits offered through robotic surgery, they’ve grown more inquisitive about and receptive to robotic procedures. St. Elizabeth Healthcare and area physicians have been listening to the growing buzz. Together, they’ve responded by purchasing the da Vinci systems, learning the robotic technology and expanding its uses in the surgical suite.
"The public has grown increasingly familiar with robotic surgery and the reports of improved patient outcomes, less post-operative pain, more rapid recovery and less blood loss. I think people here were just ready to have the opportunity to have the technology available to them," Williams says.
"So, that helped us get off to a good start with the robotics program two years ago. Then, most recently, many general surgeons have become trained robotically and have really started using it in the last six months.
"Now, we have several cardio-thoracic robotic surgeons on staff. So, we have nearly every specialty that currently uses robotic surgery worldwide also using it on our staff at St. Elizabeth Healthcare," Williams says.
That fact bodes well for the future of the technology at St. Elizabeth when new robotic formats become available that offer surgeons new and better ways to remove miniscule cancers, using fluorescence, and perform even less invasive surgeries through miniaturization technology.
But Hicks is already pretty happy with the relatively light touch of robotic surgery right now.In fact, if you ask Hicks about his surgery, he’s likely to quickly flip up his shirt to proudly show you his miniscule scars.
"See," he says, pointing to the barely visible 3/4-inch-long scars on his belly. "I have six incisions that are all very small. So, I would just relate my own experience that it was a very painless, convenient way to handle things. I have no problems talking to anybody about it because I’d highly recommend it."