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David C Battling Prostate Problems – David's Story

David C. experienced a dramatic recovery after robotic assisted surgery on his prostate. "My recovery was fast, and I’m happy to report that everything is back to normal."

David Crockett, 68, knew he had a problem with his prostate, a small, walnut-shaped gland that creates fluid for semen. During the night, David, who lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., had to get up several times to use the bathroom. Long car trips required frequent breaks. The assistant professor in the Department of Neuroscience and Cell Biology at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School remembered that his father had struggled with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), in which the prostate gland enlarges, causing urination problems.

BPH occurs with aging (about half of men between 51 and 60 have the condition, and up to 90 percent of men over age 80 have it). The prostate gland surrounds the urethra, a tube that carries urine from the bladder to the penis. When the gland enlarges, it can press on the urethra, irritating or blocking the tube. It can also lead to bladder and kidney damage. When the bladder doesn’t empty completely, it can stretch and weaken. Pressure in the bladder from retained urine can damage the kidneys.

What David didn’t realize was how quickly the condition can deteriorate. In November 2018, he learned that his enlarged prostate gland was pressing against his bladder, preventing him from urinating and causing his bladder to become dangerously swollen. “My belly got so big I looked like I was pregnant,” he recalls. “My primary care doctor sent me to a urologist right away, and two liters of urine were flushed out of my bladder.”

A Minimally Invasive Solution

The urology team at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) examined David and found that his bladder had swollen to five times its normal size. David also learned he was developing kidney failure and a diverticulum, a pouch that forms in the bladder wall, often as a result of BPH.

After discussing treatment options with his urologic surgeon, Sammy Elsamra, MD, director of Robotic Surgical Services, David decided in February to undergo robotic-assisted surgery at RWJUH, which is using the newest robotic technology. Robotic-assisted surgery is commonly used to perform urologic procedures, such as the removal of the prostate gland or a kidney and urinary obstruction surgery. With this technology, the surgeon sits at a console and uses controls to manipulate surgical instruments. He or she make small incisions and uses a laparoscope—a thin tube with a tiny camera and light at the end—to view the patient’s anatomy. The images are sent to a computer screen, which magnifies organs, improving the surgeon’s field of vision. “In small spaces like the pelvis, the robot offers a level of visualization and precision that isn’t possible with open surgery,” says Dr. Elsamra.

One of the key benefits of this technology is the robot’s wide range of motion. The robot can maneuver in tight areas, allowing physicians to perform surgeries in hard-to-reach places. This minimally invasive approach means that surgeons can provide the same, or better, quality repairs as traditional open procedures with less pain and scarring, shorter hospital stays and faster recovery times. “The traditional procedure is performed in an open manner, but robotic surgery should be the standard,” says Dr. Elsamra.

A Speedy Recovery

David feared that some of the damage to his bladder was beyond repair and that he would not regain full function after the surgery. “We knew there was a chance he’d have trouble urinating and would need a catheter permanently,” says Dr. Elsamra. “Luckily, we were able to remove the diverticulum in his bladder and the obstructing prostate tissue. He was back to normal function one week later.”

David says the experience wound up being much easier than he had expected. He was able to go home within 24 hours of the surgery, and the pain was so minimal that he took only two prescription pain medication pills before switching to acetaminophen. “The procedure turned out to be a miracle,” he says. “My recovery was fast, and I’m happy to report that everything is back to normal.”

Six Benefits to Robotic-Assisted Surgery

Robotic-assisted surgery may result in the following:

  1. A shorter hospital stay. Some robotic-assisted procedures can even be done on an outpatient basis.
  2. Less postsurgical pain and a need for fewer opioid pain medications
  3. Smaller and less noticeable scars compared to those associated with open procedures
  4. Lower risk of infection
  5. Lower risk of blood loss requiring a transfusion
  6. A quicker return to daily activities (often in days rather than weeks or months with open procedures)

To learn more about robotic-assisted surgery at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, visit www.rwjbh.org/rwjuhrobotics.