Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center Performs First Robot-Assisted Pancreatectomy in Massachusetts
For many months, Jonathan Archer, a 45-year old husband, father, and mechanical engineer from Mansfield, Mass., had been suffering an array of gastrointestinal symptoms.
Last April, he underwent several screening exams that revealed a mass on his pancreas. After doing extensive research and learning about the Department of Surgery's expertise and outcomes in pancreatic surgery, Mr. Archer insisted on coming to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) for his treatment.
On June 14, 2012 Mr. Archer underwent a distal pancreatectomy with splenectomy at BIDMC - the surgical removal of the tail of his pancreas and his spleen. That was not unusual, as this is the definitive treatment for his type of cancer, a neuroendocrine tumor of the pancreas.
What made Mr. Archer's operation truly remarkable was that it was the first robot-assisted pancreatectomy performed in Boston. Using BIDMC's state-of-the-art surgical robot, pancreatic surgeons
Mark Callery, MD, and
Jim Moser, MD, needed just six half-inch incisions to perform the operation and achieve this surgical milestone.
Dr. Callery, Chief of General Surgery, and Dr. Moser, Executive Director of the BIDMC Institute for Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Surgery, are international leaders in pancreatic surgery and have collectively performed hundreds of open and minimally invasive pancreatectomies. They worked together to perform Mr. Archer's operation, using the most sophisticated of BIDMC's two robots, with assistance from an entire surgical team that included anesthesiologist Peter Panzica, MD.
Dr. Moser, who came to BIDMC from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) in the spring, is among a handful of world leaders advancing robot-assisted pancreatic surgery. In fact, Dr. Moser has performed 200 robot-assisted pancreatic operations thus far, including the very complex Whipple procedure, which is used to treat patients with certain benign and malignant pancreatic diseases.
"As a top center for pancreatic surgery, we're thrilled to have the surgical talent, experience, technology, and expertise to be able to offer patients throughout New England and beyond the best possible treatment options, including robot-assisted procedures," says
Jennifer Tseng, MD, MPH, Chief of Surgical Oncology.
The use of laparoscopic approaches in pancreatic surgery has been slower to catch on than in many other surgical specialties for several reasons: the difficult-to-access location of the pancreas, the organ's close proximity to major blood vessels, and surgeons' concern about being able to remove all of the patient's cancer.
Yet recent studies, including a recent study by Dr. Moser scheduled for publication in a major journal, indicate that laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy (similar to the procedure Mr. Archer underwent) is safe and feasible when performed by experienced surgeons. This is good news for patients, because compared to the open procedure, the minimally invasive approach results in a shorter hospital stay, less pain, less blood loss, and a faster recovery.
Dr. Moser comments that "the improved visualization and dexterity of the robotic approach may offer more patients the option of minimally invasive surgery. Consequently, we'll advance this approach here at BIDMC."
For patients like Mr. Archer, who was out of the hospital in just five days, back at work in under five weeks, and according to Dr. Callery has an "excellent prognosis," having that option made a big difference.
"I even went boating the weekend after surgery," says Mr. Archer, joking that this probably would not have been approved by his surgeons. "Dr. Callery and Dr. Moser get an A-plus, plus, plus from me," he says. "The most important thing, of course, is that they completely removed the tumor, but they did so with very little disruption to my life."