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Emory Saint Joseph's introduces advancements in robotic surgery

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Mary Beth Spence
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In this video, Dr. Pattaras explains the new surgical procedure.

John G. Pattaras, MD, FACS has introduced an organ-sparing kidney cancer surgery at Emory Saint Joseph's Hospital. This involves removing the tumor and reconstructing the patient's kidney through the advancement of robotics.

Patients eligible for a robotic partial nephrectomy have experienced less pain and complications as well as a shorter hospital stay. This minimally invasive procedure involves making several quarter-inch incisions in the patient's abdomen, allowing for the insertion of a 3D videoscope and other instruments. The surgeon is then able to view the kidney and instruments on a console monitor, which allows precision surgery to remove the tumor and repair the remaining kidney.

"A partial nephrectomy entails removing just the tumor and not the entire kidney," says Pattaras, the chief of urology services at Emory Saint Joseph's Hospital, and the director of minimally invasive surgery. Pattaras started the laparoscopic and robotic urologic surgery program at Emory University and was the first Emory surgeon to perform a robotic prostatectomy, robotic partial nephrectomy and robotic cystoprostatectomy for prostate, kidney and bladder cancers, respectively. Over the past 14 years, the program has expanded to become the premier laparoscopic and robotics program in Atlanta, serving patients from Georgia and neighboring states as well as national and international patients.

For Paul Blow, the first patient to undergo the robotic partial nephrectomy at Emory Saint Joseph's, this procedure not only spared his kidney but may have saved his life.

His path to discovering Pattaras and the life-changing surgery began during a routine day finishing chores around his house. The 49-year-old married father of two suddenly began experiencing severe abdominal pain, which led to a trip to the emergency room. After several diagnostic tests, physicians were unable to locate the source of the pain, but instead made a surprising discovery -- Blow had one cancerous tumor located on each kidney.

However, because of the tumor's location on Blow's right kidney, he was not eligible for a robotic partial nephrectomy. "Unfortunately, the tumor was in the worst possible place, and my kidney had to be flipped over," he says. Due to the complexity of Blow's case, Pattaras performed an open partial nephrectomy at Emory University Hospital, which required a large incision and resulted in a three-month recovery.

Luckily, the smaller tumor on his left kidney was in a more accessible location, so Blow was eligible for robotic partial nephrectomy for this side. The difference in recovery was dramatic.

After only a two-day hospital stay and minimal discomfort, Blow's energy level returned quickly, and he soon returned to his job at Deutz Exchange, a company that manufactures engines for mining equipment. Today, he has resumed an active lifestyle with two fully functioning kidneys.

"I feel great, and I'm cancer free," says Blow, about the positive outcome of his robotic surgery. "It could have been a much different story if these cysts had not been found," he added, about the diagnosis that saved his life.

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