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From robotic prostatectomy to running in three weeks

Patient Spotlight March 18, 2014 By Main Line Health

Joe McElwee was an active 52-year-old when a routine screening picked up a spike in his prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level. PSA is a protein produced by cells of the prostate gland.

In some cases, elevated PSA levels can indicate the presence of prostate cancer. McElwee’s family doctor recommended he see David McGinnis, MD, a urologic surgeon at Bryn Mawr Hospital. Dr. McGinnis performed a biopsy and found several areas of cancer in McElwee’s prostate.

“The doctor said that for someone my age and in my shape we should take out the prostate entirely and that it could be done robotically,” says McElwee.

According to Dr. McGinnis, urologic surgery has largely shifted from open procedures to minimally invasive laparoscopic and robotic procedures. The advantages are safer surgeries, faster recoveries and less pain for patients. When operating on or removing the prostate, precision is required in order to prevent or minimize damage to nearby nerves that control urinary and sexual function.

“The robot helps us do this by giving us better control of the surgical instruments and better visualization of the surgical field,” says Dr. McGinnis. “Many people are discharged from the hospital the next day and the pain is similar to what you would experience if you did too many sit-ups.”

An active runner who actually ran a half marathon the day before his surgery, McElwee liked the idea that he could return to normal activities faster thanks to the robot.

“I was running within three weeks of my surgery,” he says. “I’ve never had any complications from the procedure, and today I’m cancer free.”