Blazing a Trail in Kidney Surgery

June 01, 2014

When the diagnosis is a kidney tumor, treating your condition effectively and leaving you with a healthy, functioning kidney is your doctor’s primary goal. Today, surgeons at Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital use cutting-edge robotic surgical technology to help remove kidney tumors with less blood loss and a faster recovery time.

In the past, removing tumors used to involve making a large incision — about 18 inches — and often involved the removal of a rib in order to reach the kidney. This meant more blood loss, more pain and a long hospital stay for recovering patients.

Today, surgeons typically use minimally invasive or laparoscopic techniques for many surgeries, such as prostate and bladder surgery. These methods involve using special surgical tools inserted through tiny incisions.

Until recently, these laparoscopic procedures were not an option when treating kidney tumors — surgeons had to hold the tools at awkward angles to reach the kidney and it was difficult to perform the delicate sewing necessary to repair the organ.

A New Chapter in Kidney Surgery

Now, new robotic surgical systems and cutting-edge procedures offer patients an alternative. The new surgical tools are inserted through small incisions — as with laparoscopic surgery — but the surgeons control the tools from a remote console. This gives them a much wider range of motion and a better view of the surgical site. The surgeons can control the robotic tools naturally, as if they are attached to their own hands.

“We have the best of both worlds,” says Craig G. Rogers, M.D., director of urologic oncology at Henry Ford West Bloomfield. “We reap all the benefits of performing kidney surgery with a less invasive approach and now have the precision and accuracy that allow us to remove tumors and repair the kidney.”

Pioneers in Robotic Surgery

Henry Ford Health System surgeons are nationally renowned experts in robotic surgery — in fact, they helped create these techniques. Henry Ford was among the first health systems in the country to perform robotic prostate surgery and the first to offer robotic kidney surgery. Today, Dr. Rogers and the Henry Ford surgical team perform more robotic kidney surgeries than doctors at any other hospital in the world.

Dr. Rogers’ team also invented several new advances in robotic surgery. For example, they developed an ultrasound device that attaches to the robotic system, helping surgeons find the exact position of the tumor to improve the accuracy of the surgery. The team also created a new way to keep kidneys cool during surgery to preserve function and allow surgeons to analyze tumors right after removing them.

“We have become a flagship institution that other hospitals look to in developing their own robotic kidney programs,” says Dr. Rogers. “We offer a course every year, and surgeons come from around the country to learn how to do the technique.”