BY PAM MCGRATH IMAGE COURTESY OF BARNES_JEWISH HOSPITAL
When used to perform living-donor nephrectomy—the removal of a kidney from a living donor for transplantation into a recipient—a robotic surgery system offers a number of benefits. For example, the donor’s stay in the hospital may be shortened and recovery may happen more quickly.
Though many such donation surgeries already are being done using a minimally invasive procedure that offers living donors similar benefits, the robotic procedure allows for additional improvements.
Use of a robotic system for nephrectomy isn’t new. “Robotic nephrectomy has already been proven highly effective in both partial and radical, or complete, removal of kidneys due to cancer,” says Adeel Khan, MD, MPH, transplant surgeon at the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Transplant Center. “The robotic system offers a three-dimensional view of the surgical field that is magnified up to 15 times greater than the human eye. And the system’s instruments, which are under the surgeon’s command, offer the precision needed to remove a tumor while preserving healthy parts of the kidney.”
THE USE OF ROBOTICS OFFERS ADDITIONAL PRECISION IN LIVING KIDNEY-DONOR AND KIDNEY TRANSPLANTATION SURGERIES.
This precision is what makes robotic surgery an excellent option for some living kidney donors and for transplant recipients. Jason Wellen, MD, MBA, Washington University transplant surgeon at the Transplant Center, explains why that’s true.
“It is imperative that a living-donor kidney is removed in a manner that preserves blood vessels and the ureter, which are essential for successful transplantation. The robotic system helps ensure that those structures are well-visualized during extraction.” And Wellen notes, “The system also offers surgical tools that are easily maneuvered, with multiple degrees of articulation that are similar to that of a human wrist. These benefits mean less discomfort during recovery for those who have chosen to become living kidney donors.”
Robotic-assisted kidney transplants
People with renal failure who are in need of a transplant—many of whom are at risk of complications during and after surgery—also may benefit from a robotic-assisted procedure.
“The most common indications for kidney transplantation are diabetes and hypertension,” says Wellen. “And we often see these diseases in patients who are obese.” In the past, kidney transplantation was frequently considered a high risk for these people due to potential surgical complications, post-surgery infection and failure of the transplanted organ.
“Today, robotic-assisted kidney transplantation can reduce those risks for many,” says Khan. “People who were once unable to qualify for a kidney transplant now may have an opportunity to have the surgery and achieve a much better quality of life.”