After multiple diagnostic tests, procedures and consultations both at Michael E. DeBakey VA Hospital and MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, on February 8 Bill underwent nerve-sparing laparoscopic radical prostatectomy using da Vinci robotics at MD Anderson. All doctors agreed that Bill had a high-grade aggressive form of cancer that had not yet spread to surrounding soft tissue or into bones. This made him an excellent candidate for surgery. He was not considered a good candidate for any of the radiation therapies because the cancer was too aggressive and Bill has Crohn's Disease which can have life-long negative affects from radiation. So, surgery it would be. Today we learned that all 14 lymph nodes removed were clear of cancer. This means Bill can expect a complete recovery!
These robotics machines are amazing. Of course, the robots are only as good as the surgeon guiding the robot. The robotics allow for greater precision cutting. As in all things, practice makes perfect; so one wants a surgeon who has performed hundreds or thousands of surgeries using the robotics. And that is exactly what/who can be found at MDA in Houston.
Bill's surgery was delayed almost 2 hours while his surgical team waited for the newest generation robotics machine to finish another surgery and be cleaned and set-up for Bill. MDA has 3 of these machines and Bill's surgeon wanted to use the newest one for this surgery. Surgery took about 7 hours but much of that time was the positioning and setting-up in the operating room rather than the actual cutting and suturing.
The da Vinci Surgical System is manufactured by Intuitive Surgical, Inc., based in Sunnyvale, California. These robotics are used in hysterectomies, heart valve and various cancer surgeries through 1 - 2 cm incisions, which means much less invasive surgeries and faster recovery for patients. The robotics offer enhanced 3D HD visualization, enhanced dexterity and greater precision and control for the surgeon. The original prototype for the da Vinci System was developed in the late 1980s at the former Stanford Research Institute under contract to the U.S. Army. While initial work was funded in the interest of developing a system for remotely performing battlefield surgery, possible commercial applications were even more compelling. As of September 2012 there were 2,462 da Vinci Systems installed in over 1,936 hospitals worldwide. There are 3 at MD Anderson and 3 at the VA hospital in Houston. Maybe there are more in the Houston Medical Center, but we know for certain that those 6 are in operation in Houston. For prostate cancer patients, the da Vinci Surgery is used in 4 out of 5 radical prostatectomies in the U.S. today.
For non-squeamish readers, here is a link to a short video of a robotics surgery similar to what was performed on Bill. One difference is that Bill was placed on the operating table and then the table was slanted -- head toward the floor and feet toward the ceiling. Makes sense if for no other reason than to alleviate the effect of gravity on the internal organs where the operation was performed.
For squeamish readers, here is a link to a short video of one of the robotics machines peeling a grape.
We will remain in Houston while Bill recuperates from this surgery, which statistics state can take anywhere from 2 months to over a year. At this time we are hoping to return to the boat mid-summer. But that date might be adjusted depending on recuperation progress.
Keeping our fingers crossed that Bill is one of the lucky ones who recuperates and fully returns to normal quickly. Hoping to be back on the water this summer!!!