Cutting Edge

12/04/2005

Medical progress is measured in many ways. As robotic surgery comes of age, Katrina's victims struggle to find the most basic care. A look ahead.

robotic prostatectomy

Photo illustration by Newsweek; photograph by Adam Friedberg for Newsweek

By Jennifer Barrett
Newsweek
Updated: 2:57 p.m. ET Dec. 4, 2005


Dec. 12, 2005 issue - Stuart Forbes celebrated his 60th birthday on April 11. A week later, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. "It was quite a month," says Forbes, a blunt Vietnam veteran who runs a consulting firm outside Boston. When biopsies confirmed he had an aggressive form of the disease, Forbes started looking for a surgeon. The first recommended a traditional radical prostatectomy, which would require an eight- to 10-inch incision and at least two days in the hospital. Forbes was also warned that he would likely lose almost all the nerves on the left side of the prostate, which could permanently affect his sexual function. "I thought, 'I need to really look at all my options'," says Forbes. He considered high-intensity focused ultrasound ablation, a relatively new technology that's been used in Europe. But it's expensive and would require transatlantic trips. He looked into various forms of radiation, as well as proton-beam therapy. Then, in June, his girlfriend took him to a symposium on robotic surgery. "I saw the machine and how it worked," remembers Forbes. "It was just incredible. I said, 'That's it'."

Five years ago, says Dr. David B. Samadi, director of robotic laparoscopic urology surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/ Columbia Medical Center, 80 to 90 percent of the prostatectomies he did were open, with less than 10 percent done robotically. Now the figures have reversed. "There is much less blood loss and an extremely low rate of complications," he says.

The next frontier for robotic surgery may be gynecological laparoscopic procedures, for which the system was just approved this spring. There are about five times as many hysterectomies as prostatectomies performed each year, and surgeons say the complex procedure could benefit from the robotic system's precision. Cardiac surgeons have also begun using the da Vinci for a range of procedures, from mitral-valve repair to coronary-bypass surgery.

robotic prostatectomy

Photo illustration by Newsweek; photograph by Adam Friedberg for Newsweek (stereo viewer); courtesy of Intuitive Surgical Inc. (3-D image)

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* The benefits of robotic surgery cannot be guaranteed as surgery is both patient and procedure specific. Previous surgical results do not guarantee future outcomes.




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My story is surely the same as hundreds of patients that have gone before me, and hundreds more than will come after me. I feel, however, an uncontrollable desire to tell this story, hoping it helps someone who is in the same situation that I was and that they find it inspirational enough to make a decision that will help them feel reborn...

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Dr. Aharon Manes, senior Urologist, surgeon from “Hasharon” hospital in Petah Tiqwa, Israel, my doctor, a professional, attentive, patient physician, had sent me to have a blood exam on 1/9/2010, to establish my PSA level. The PSA result was 19.5.

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It was Dr. Samadi himself wanting to speak with both of us to find out exactly what we needed and how he could help us. Dr. Samadi was a true hero in this story. I love him for what he did and would recommend him to anyone who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

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