Thriving after robot-assisted colon surgery

July 09, 2019 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Heroes

Constantly worrying about another attack is how Michael Singleton describes life before surgery in the spring of 2019. The 58-year-old experienced three diverticulitis attacks in the 11 months before his doctor recommended a consult with V. Karlos Arcos, M.D., an Edward-Elmhurst Health colorectal surgeon.

In diverticulosis, bulging pouches form in the lining of the digestive system, usually in the large intestine. Diverticulosis is common over the age of 40 and becomes more common as we age. When one or more of these pouches become inflamed or infected, it’s called diverticulitis, a condition that causes abdominal pain, fever, nausea and changes in bowel habits.

Severe cases can cause abscess formation or colon rupture. About 200,000 people are hospitalized in the U.S. with diverticulitis each year. While mild cases often resolve with diet changes, rest and antibiotics, severe or recurring cases may require surgery.

For Singleton, surgery was needed — a laparoscopic colon resection. Through a few 8-12 millimeter incisions in the abdomen, Dr. Arcos used the da Vinci Surgical System for the dissection.

“The robotic technology helps avoid large abdominal incisions and provides a clear 3D image. This allows for more precise dissection and minimal blood loss,” says Dr. Arcos. “In Michael’s case, we removed a 14.5 centimeter-long section of the colon, or just under six inches.”

Patients who have robotic-assisted laparoscopy also use little to no narcotics for pain control following surgery and experience a quicker return to normal bowel function, shorter hospital stays, and faster return to work and normal function.

This was true for Singleton, who was discharged just two days after surgery on a Friday and attended a sales meeting the following Monday, without the use of pain medications.

“Michael didn’t require any narcotics post-operatively in the hospital,” says Dr. Arcos. “And if I recall, he didn’t use the narcotic prescription at home either.”

“That’s true,” confirms Singleton. “I just took Tylenol. That was all I needed.”

The use of robotics for common gastrointestinal (GI) conditions that require surgical intervention, such as diverticulitis, is an important advancement.

Robotic-assisted procedures combine the strengths of the surgeon and technology in a way that enhances minimally invasive procedures, reducing pain, hospital stays, surgeon fatigue and more. Most importantly, the use of this technology allows patients with life-altering symptoms of common GI conditions to get back to enjoying their lives and living with limited or no symptoms, like Singleton.

“At this point, Michael’s chance of another diverticulitis attack is about 5 percent,” says Dr. Arcos.

Recent studies show that 5 to 75 percent of the general population have diverticulosis depending on age, and 15 to 20 percent will have an attack of diverticulitis.

Dr. Arcos recommends patients with diverticulosis or diverticulitis establish a relationship with a colorectal surgeon before surgery is needed, if possible.

“Early consultation is important so if you do have another episode, you’re already established with a surgeon,” says Dr. Arcos. “In Michael’s case, it also helped that he acted early because scar tissue from previous attacks was minimal, which led to a very straightforward case.”

Singleton appreciates the benefits of using the robotic technology in his procedure, and can’t say enough about his experience of working with Dr. Arcos.

“He’s top notch in my book,” says Singleton. “His demeanor helped the process so much. The entire staff was great. The hospital visit was great.

“This surgery has dramatically changed my life,” he says. “Now, if I feel a small ache or pain, I don’t immediately worry about another diverticulitis attack.”

Learn more about Edward-Elmhurst Health’s gastrointestinal care.

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