St. Luke’s Urologists Treat Bladder Cancer Using Surgical Robot

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St. Luke’s University Health Network urologists are using robot-assisted technology to surgically remove bladder cancer with promising results. Called partial (or radical) cystectomy, this treatment method is better for patients, as it reduces blood loss, improves patient comfort and promotes faster recovery and discharge from the hospital.

During this procedure, the surgeon makes small incisions in the patient’s abdomen, then inserts a miniature 3D camera, cutting devices and grasping tools.

St. Luke’s urologist Abhay Singh, MD, calls the benefits of robotic surgery for bladder cancer “significant,” adding, “this is evolving to become the standard of care preferred by patients and urologists.”

“Cancerous bladder removal, and subsequent reconstruction, is complex and effective, but the da Vinci XI robot at St. Luke’s enhances surgical precision and patient convenience and produces outcomes that aren’t always achievable with ‘open’ operations.”

About 80,000 persons in United States are diagnosed yearly with bladder cancer, a disease closely linked to tobacco smoking and exposure to certain chemicals. The most common symptom of bladder cancer is blood in the urine. With age comes the increased of bladder cancer, especially in persons ages 60-80 years.

There are generally two kinds of bladder cancer.  Less invasive cancers are usually not life threatening, while cancers that invade the muscle can be a threat. Most bladder cancers do not infiltrate the organ’s muscle layer. Treatment for more aggressive cancers usually involves surgical removal of the bladder along with chemotherapy.  Some patients opt for radiation and chemotherapy instead.

The surgery might include removal of the bladder, prostate (in men) and lymph nodes in the pelvis. Construction of a replacement bladder, or passage for urine out of the body to a urine-collection bag, then is performed during the same surgery using a section of the patient’s intestine, explained Dr. Singh.

He estimates that he will choose robot-assisted technology to treat approximately a dozen bladder cancer patients this year, a volume that will increase annually. Patients who are obese, or have significant scar tissue growth in the abdomen from a prior surgery, may not qualify for this kind of small-incision surgery.

“Patients respond well to this new treatment option … and most can return to their daily activities with no limitations,” added Dr. Singh.

Photo caption:  Abhay Singh, MD, St. Luke’s urologist, says robotic surgery for bladder cancer enhances surgical precision and patient convenience.

About St. Luke’s

Founded in 1872, St. Luke’s University Health Network (SLUHN) is a fully integrated, regional, non-profit network of more than 20,000 employees providing services at 15 campuses and 350+ outpatient sites.  With annual net revenue of $3.4 billion, the Network’s service area includes 11 counties in two states: Lehigh, Northampton, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Montgomery, Monroe, Schuylkill and Luzerne counties in Pennsylvania and Warren and Hunterdon counties in New Jersey. St. Luke’s hospitals operate the largest network of trauma centers in Pennsylvania, with the Bethlehem Campus being home to St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital.

Dedicated to advancing medical education, St. Luke’s is the preeminent teaching hospital in central-eastern Pennsylvania.  In partnership with Temple University, the Network established the Lehigh Valley’s first and only four-year medical school campus.  It also operates the nation’s oldest School of Nursing, established in 1884, and 52 fully accredited graduate medical educational programs with more than 500 residents and fellows. In 2022, St. Luke’s, a member of the Children’s Hospital Association, opened the Lehigh Valley’s first and only free-standing facility dedicated entirely to kids.

SLUHN is the only Lehigh Valley-based health care system to earn Medicare’s five-star ratings (the highest) for quality, efficiency and patient satisfaction.  It is both a Leapfrog Group and Healthgrades Top Hospital and a Newsweek World’s Best Hospital.  The Network’s flagship University Hospital has earned the 100 Top Major Teaching Hospital designation from Fortune/PINC AI 10 years in a row, including in 2023 when it was identified as THE #4 TEACHING HOSPITAL IN THE COUNTRY.  In 2021, St. Luke’s was identified as one of the 15 Top Health Systems nationally.  Utilizing the Epic electronic medical record (EMR) system for both inpatient and outpatient services, the Network is a multi-year recipient of the Most Wired award recognizing the breadth of the SLUHN’s information technology applications such as telehealth, online scheduling and online pricing information.  The Network is also recognized as one of the state’s lowest-cost providers.

Information provided to TVL by:
Sam Kennedy