Robodocs complete milestone operation

Robotic surgery

A longtime runner and tri-athlete, Arieh Shalhav, MD, has prided himself on being able to complete a 5-kilometer race in about 20 minutes despite being in his latter 50s. But lately he has taken pride in completing a different kind of 5K, one that involves his skills as a robotics surgeon and has taken about 10 years.

In late January 2013, Shalhav performed the 5,000th robotic procedure, a number that includes more than 3,000 prostatectomies and makes the team of robotic surgeons at the University of Chicago the 22nd institution worldwide to reach that milestone. He used a third-generation robotics system from Intuitive Surgical to remove a cancerous kidney and ureter from Jotham Fridland, PhD, an 81-year-old former psychologist from Highland Park.

That journey to the 5,000th patient started in November 2002, when Shalhav, professor of surgery and section chief of urology at the University of Chicago Medicine, performed the first robotic surgery at the medical center. The operation on a 70-year-old woman with a tumor in her kidney went well. Indeed, two days after surgery, she was walking around her neighborhood trying to convince friends that she did have cancer surgery.

Fridland recovered just as quickly after his robotics procedure. He couldn't help but compare his previous experience with conventional surgery to the minimally invasive one he had on Jan. 29.

"They don't cut you from end-to-end anymore," said Fridland, a graduate of the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and the College who went on to earn a doctorate in psychology. "The incisions were small. I was up and about within a day. I'm not going to say it was a delight, but I never had any pain, except when I coughed."

Arieh Shalhav, MD Arieh Shalhav, MD

Shalhav called Fridland "a smart guy" for acting swiftly.

Fridland had a very aggressive tumor, one that can be difficult to detect. When he noticed blood in his urine, he quickly got medical attention and his doctors recognized the kidney cancer early.

Fridland shopped around for a surgeon. A friend recommended Shalhav for a second opinion. Fridland learned about the small incisions and quick recovery under the robotics method and elected to have Shalhav remove his kidney via robotic surgery.

"It was a good decision," Shalhav said. "For someone his age and with other health issues, there is a small risk of complications and even death with any surgery. This is a fairly substantial operation. Leaving this cancer untreated would lead to metastatic disease pretty quickly, probably involving the lungs and bone. This would mean considerable and progressive suffering."

Fridland said he immediately felt comfortable choosing Shalhav as his doctor. "From the first moment I met the doctor, I just knew he was the guy," he said. "I recommend this approach and this team to anybody."

Fridland did have one problem soon after his operation. But this was an issue that could not be blamed on the procedure or the medical team. "I wanted to play golf," he said. "I was ready to play golf. I felt it would do me good to play golf, but it's just been too cold."


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