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Two Perspectives on One Woman’s Successful Robotic Kidney-Sparing Surgery

By: Joseph Cupolo
Posted: Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Alicia Morris is a 67-year-old mother of five adult children and one grandchild. She is also a retired nurse. From her professional experience, she knows that developing cancer in her remaining kidney at her age is overwrought with many fears, challenges, and decisions. She also knows that getting through surgery for her first cancerous kidney was an all-demanding journey. Yet, 13 years later, she had to face another such journey.

Her surgeon this time around, Michael D. Stifelman, MD, Chair of Urology and Director of Robotic Surgery at Hackensack Meridian Hackensack University Medical Center, informed her that she had three options: watch the tumor to see whether it grows, undergo cryoablation to destroy tumor tissue, or have surgery to remove the tumor while preserving the rest of her kidney. Alicia well knew if Dr. Stifelman had to remove her remaining kidney, her days would be under the shadow of continued dialysis.

Alicia opted to undergo robotic kidney-sparing surgery. “Dr. Stifelman was sincere and encouraging while being personable, kind, and professional,” Alicia recalled. Since her surgery would be performed using robotic technology, Dr. Stifelman said it would require only a few small incisions of about a half-inch in length—a welcome change from Alicia’s previous kidney surgery—and less time in the hospital. Although the grandmother in Alicia may not have wanted to know anything more about surgery, the nurse in her wanted to learn more. “Being a nurse, I like to be taught,” said Alicia. “And Dr. Stifelman was willing to teach.”

From Dr. Stifelman’s point of view, he was able to encourage Alicia to undergo the surgery the procedure via an innovative three-dimensional imaging tool. “Because Alicia only had one kidney, it was critical to see her tumor and her anatomy before the surgery to lower the risk that she would lose her kidney. We only had about 20 minutes to clamp the renal artery and perform the procedure. Thus, I was able to visualize Alicia’s anatomic structures, so I could plan my surgical approach before setting foot in the operating room,” said Dr. Stifelman.

And as for Alicia’s recuperation: “The recovery has been amazing,” she commented. “It’s almost like I didn’t have surgery.”



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