High-tech robotic procedure gets golfer back in the swing

"I was worried that I wouldn't be able to get back into my daily routine of walking and running," explains Gregory Balint, 56, of Harrison Township. "What really concerned me was the thought of not getting to the golf course. As of yesterday, I swung the clubs for the first time and I'm ready to hit the links."

Nearly one month ago, facing surgery to remove his prostate as a result of prostate cancer, Balint didn't expect to be back into his daily routine so quickly. "My initial thought was that I would be spending a long period of time recovering. Only after reading and talking about my surgery options did I realize that through a radical prostatectomy I could expect minimal impact and a quicker return to my normal functions."

For this procedure, Balint was referred to Beaumont, Grosse Pointe and Dinesh Telang, M.D., chief of Surgery. Dr. Telang performs radical prostatectomies using a state-of-the-art da Vinci® Surgical System, that was installed at the hospital earlier this year.

Thanks to a generous gift from G. John Stevens and his wife Betty to name The G. John and Elizabeth A. Stevens Center for Minimally Invasive Surgery, many patients like Balint will benefit from this new technology. Long-time Grosse Pointe residents, the Stevens' gift enabled the hospital to proceed with the purchase of a daVinci surgical robot as well as other ssential equipment for the center.

"We've seen around 19 or 20 cases since February when our da Vinci arrived and as the word gets out on the benefits, I have no doubt those numbers will steadily grow," says Dr. Telang. "Our patients have been very complimentary about the results they've seen."

Balint believes that the use of the new high-tech equipment significantly contributed to his recovery. "I'm already feeling great. I'm up and walking around and doing everything I've done before. To say that it has been a good recovery would be selling it short."

In addition to quicker recovery times, the benefits of surgeries performed with robotic assistance include significantly less pain, less scarring and blood loss, shorter hospital stays and, in most cases, better clinical outcomes.

"The da Vinci Surgical System combines the knowledge and skills of the surgeon with precise manipulation of surgical instruments," says Dr. Telang. "This technology has transformed surgical treatment for prostate cancer because of the technical and clinical advantages in terms of visual magnification and refinement of surgical techniques in an area that can be difficult to operate with traditional techniques."

Surgeons operate the da Vinci Surgical System while seated comfortably at a console while viewing a 3-D image of the surgical field. The surgeon's fingers grasp the master controls below the 3-D image with hands and wrists naturally positioned relative to his eyes. The system translates the surgeon's hand, wrist and finger movements into precise, real-time movements of surgical instruments inside the patient.

"As technology continues to evolve, it is important to maintain the latest and greatest equipment for patients to receive the best outcomes and physicians to do their best work," explains Dr. Telang. "I'm excited to see Beaumont encourage the use of leading edge technology and diagnostics."

Balint said he hadn't heard about robotic surgeries until his diagnosis when he started doing research and looking at all of his options. "Choosing this method of surgery intrigued me because the process is still relatively new. I was hesitant at first, but after looking at how many surgeries had been performed and other patient testimonials, in addition to talking with Dr. Telang, the pros simply outweighed the cons. I would recommend it to anyone."

From the moment Balint walked into the hospital, he says he was impressed beginning with the greeting at registration through the nurses in recovery. "Luckily, I haven't spent a lot of time at the hospital, but during this experience everyone's bedside manner was impeccable. I can't emphasize enough the amount of professionalism and courtesy I experienced. I can't say enough about the whole situation."

Robotic surgery is quickly becoming the medical standard for surgeries such as radical prostatectomies. The da Vinci Surgical System has been embraced by Beaumont surgeons for a wide range procedures including prostate cancer removal and gynecological surgery, including hysterectomy.

This article originally appeared in the Grosse Pointe News Supplement, May 14, 2009.