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Robotic Nephroureterectomy Patient Story

Jerry Fordham wasn’t truly alarmed when he started losing weight two years ago, but, by December of 2012, he was down 80 pounds.  Unaware of the cancer in his bladder, but getting weaker by the day, he knew something wasn’t right. 

Tests performed by John McHugh, MD, a urologist with Northeast Georgia Urological Associates, confirmed his fear: Fordham had bladder cancer which had spread to the ureter – the tube that carries urine from the kidney to the bladder.

Fordham and Dr. McHugh began exploring options to remove the cancer.  Weak from the weight loss and other serious health issues, and already 74 years old, Fordham worried his body wouldn’t tolerate the surgery well.

“I just don’t know if Jerry would have survived a traditional surgery; it would have overpowered him,” says Fordham’s wife, Dot.

Fordham became the first patient ever to receive a robotic nephroureterectomy at Northeast Georgia Medical Center.  The minimally invasive procedure, which utilizes the da Vinci Surgical System to surgically remove the kidney and its ureter, was performed by Brent Sharpe, MD, a new urologist with Northeast Georgia Urological Associates.

Nephroureterectomy has traditionally been performed as an open procedure, which requires a larger incision extending from the patient’s flank to his or her pelvis, often measuring up to 12 inches long.

“With the use of the da Vinci Surgical System, we are able to perform this procedure robotically with a series of small, keyhole incisions, rather than one large incision,” says Dr. Sharpe.

Smaller incisions mean less post-operative pain and decreased blood loss for patients like Fordham.  Other advantages of robotic nephroureterectomy include a shorter hospital stay and quicker recovery.

“Patients who undergo traditional surgery on average stay up to a full week in the hospital and need as many as three months to return to normal activities, whereas patients who undergo the robotic techniques usually have a hospital stay of two to three days and are back to normal activity within seven days,” adds Dr. Sharpe.  “Mr. Fordham was an exception to this rule; he was resting at home the very next afternoon.”

“This procedure has been a life-saver for me,” Fordham says.  “It has returned me to a better quality of life, with a lot less pain and a lot quicker recovery than I could have expected with an open procedure.”

For more information about the robotic nephroureterectomy procedure offered at Northeast Georgia Medical Center, call 770-219-3840.

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