This February, Washington University urologist Eric Kim, MD, reached a major milestone by completing his 100th Single Port (SP) robotic surgery case. The SP Surgical System allows surgeons to operate through a single small incision, rather than using multiple incisions with conventional robotic surgery or the larger incisions typical of traditional open surgery. Kim has used robotic surgical techniques since starting practice as a Washington University urologist. When Barnes-Jewish Hospital acquired an SP robot, Kim readily adopted the new technology. He completed his first case with the SP robot late in 2019.
Kim uses the SP robot for prostatectomy, cystectomy and radical and partial nephrectomy. Performing these cases to remove the prostate, bladder and kidneys, respectively, allows Kim to provide a less invasive approach for his urologic patients. In Kim’s experience, any patient who is a candidate for robotic surgery can benefit from the new technology of the SP robot. In some cases, where anatomic differences or other issues might have made it challenging to operate with conventional robotics, the SP robot has been particularly useful.
Kim expects prostate surgery to be the most common use for the SP robot in the future, owing to the higher prevalence of prostate cancer and the smaller size of the organ.
The advantages of robotic prostatectomy over open surgery include less time in the operating room, reduced blood loss, smaller incisions, shorter hospital stay, quicker recovery time and preserving urinary and sexual function with nerve-sparing procedures.
“I have had patients specifically request the single port robot,” he says. “They had done their research, and knew it was the newest technology. After surgery, patients are often surprised that we are able to do their prostate surgery through that one little incision on their abdomen. That’s the biggest payoff for them.”
Kim notes that patients also seem to experience less pain with SP robotic surgery—a subject he is researching as he continues to perform more cases.
“Our early experience for single port prostate surgery is that the length of stay is shorter than with conventional robotic surgery,” Kim says. “We’ve been able to send about half of our patients home on the same day they have their surgery using the SP robot. Especially during COVID, the ability to send patients home on the same day is a big win. Patients prefer not to stay in the hospital if they don’t have to.”
Kim earned his medical degree from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, where he met his mentor, R. Sherburne Figenshau, MD, the Taylor Family and Ralph V. Clayman Chair in Minimally Invasive Urology. Figenshau helped Kim find his path, inspiring him to specialize in urologic surgery. Following medical school, Kim knew he wanted to stay at the School of Medicine for his surgical training.
“I knew I wanted to train with the best,” Kim says. “At Washington University, we have the latest and greatest technology, and skilled surgeons who are experts with that technology and care about their patients. Dr. Figenshau is great at what he does. He is a fantastic technical surgeon and a calm and patient person.”
Now partners in Washington University Urology, Kim and Figenshau offer SP robotic surgery for urologic patients at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.
Kim notes that completing 100 SP robotic cases is a group accomplishment: “This is not just something I did,” he says. “It takes a village. You have to have the institutional support to get the robot, mentors like Dr. Figenshau who are there to collaborate and highly trained staff.”
Ultimately, what is most rewarding for Kim is the opportunity to offer advanced techniques and technology to help people with their urologic conditions.
“We are offering the most advanced techniques for patient care,” Kim asserts. “People do not need to travel to some far-away place to have expert care. We can do it all right here in St. Louis.”
To make an appointment with a Washington University urologist, please call 314-862-8200 or fill out the online appointment form.