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Aug 2021


Lung Cancer

By: James Williams    3733 0

Unrivaled Experience in Robotic Lung Surgery

Ron Komlos doesn’t think about lung cancer anymore since a robotic lung lobectomy determined he was cancer free. His mind has been set ever since on enjoying life thanks to the cardiothoracic team at Christian Hospital.

The cardiothoracic division at Christian Hospital has always strived to bring North County the very best heart and lung care, leading the way with innovation. In 2012, they made history performing the first-ever full lung lobectomy in the St. Louis region through the use of robotic technology. Since then, the team has performed this highly advanced procedure for a myriad of patients, extending their unmatched knowledge to teach others in these state-of-the-art techniques.

Robotic lobectomy is a minimally invasive procedure made possible through a robotic technology called the da Vinci® surgical system. It has become the gold standard for treating lung cancer as well as other cancers. Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. It is rarely symptomatic, and most patients will never experience symptoms until it has metastasized, or spread to other areas in the body. For this reason, cardiothoracic specialists take great seriousness whenever a suspicious nodule presents on the lungs. When found early, robotic lobectomy can provide a complete cure for lung cancer.

The procedure is performed by two surgeons. One surgeon is stationed at the robotic console, simulating the motion of the tiny surgical instruments. The other surgeon is scrubbed in at the bedside to assist. A pathologist is also on hand to assess whether the specimen resected from the lung is in fact malignant, or cancerous.

Robotic-assisted surgery provides a number of advantages over other treatment options including conventional surgery and video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS). It allows surgeons to make significantly smaller incisions while also providing greater dexterity and precision. This results in quicker healing with less pain for patients — most are able to resume all normal activities after  a mere two weeks post-op.

“This technology gives us the ability to quickly diagnose lung cancer with minimal set back to the patient’s life and recovery,” says Nabil Munfakh, MD, a Washington University cardiothoracic surgeon and medical director of cardiothoracic surgery at Christian Hospital.

This was true for Ron Komlos, 55, of Pevely, Mo., who was having a routine heart check when a nodule was spotted on his left lung. He was referred to Dr. Munfakh at Christian Hospital. While additional testing could not determine malignancy, the nodule was growing. Because Ron was young and healthy enough, they decided to proceed with robotic-assisted surgery.

Dr. Munfakh and Varun Puri, MD, another Washington University cardiothoracic surgeon at Christian Hospital, removed the nodule, and fortunately, it was not cancer.

Because he only needed a wedge resection instead of a full lobectomy, Ron’s hospital stay was only two nights, and he could not have been more pleased with the care he received. “I had absolutely no complaints,” says Ron. “It was the perfect setup — extremely clean, a private room, easily navigable for my family. Anytime I needed anything, the nurses were there immediately.”

Within two weeks, Ron returned to work. Now, he’s back to playing golf, traveling and enjoying time with his wife and son without the lingering worry of lung cancer. “I don’t have to think about it anymore. I made a complete recovery, and just knowing that it’s gone and it wasn’t cancer, that was tremendous,” says Ron. Positive outcomes like these are not uncommon — even for those  who did end up with a cancer diagnosis.

Because of their great success and deep experience in this advanced surgical technique, the program has become integral in training Washington University School of Medicine fellows. The latest model of the da Vinci® robot is even equipped with a teaching console that allows physicians to learn while an experienced surgeon is in control.

Garnering expertise of this level has always been top-of-mind for Christian Hospital’s cardiothoracic division. “We want to provide the best care possible for our community here in North County and in neighboring counties in Illinois, offering the most innovative techniques that give the best possible outcomes,” says Dr. Munfakh. “The robotic approach is how we do that.”

To learn more about robotic-assisted surgery or to schedule an appointment with a specialist, call 314.747.WELL (9355).

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