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Donor-funded robotic surgery celebrates milestone

Every day, 58 Canadian men are diagnosed with prostate cancer. On December 22, 2016, former Chief of Police Brad Duncan became one of them.

Dr. Stephen Pautler operates the da Vinci robot
From the master console, Dr. Pautler can control the robot's movements and see a line view of the surgical field.

Prostate cancer can be slow-growing, but it is deadly. As it grew over the next year, Brad’s cancer was monitored and tested, until eventually it became clear that surgery was his best option. On the morning of Tuesday, May 22, 2018 – one year and five months to the day from his initial diagnosis – Brad was wheeled into the operating room of urologist Dr. Stephen Pautler.

Brad Duncan“I’d read about Dr. Pautler’s reputation,” says Brad. “I had the utmost confidence in his ability to remove my prostate and offer a chance of a cure.”

To eliminate the cancerous cells, Brad’s prostate was removed in a prostatectomy surgery. Traditionally, patients undergoing a prostatectomy faced a two-week stay in hospital – but when Dr. Pautler performed his surgery, Brad was back at home the next afternoon.

That’s because Dr. Pautler was using the da Vinci system, a minimally invasive surgical robot. During surgery, the surgeon sits at a master console where their hand motions are translated into movements on the da Vinci robot’s arms, each of which is equipped with a surgical instrument. The robot acts like an extension of the surgeon’s hands, but offers a degree of precision not possible with traditional techniques.

Da Vinci robot

The arms of the da Vinci robot at work on a training module.

“I’m able to perform the same surgeries, but with the minimally invasive approach patients recover faster,” says Dr. Pautler. And he’s certainly seen the impact of those recoveries: in November 2018, Dr. Pautler celebrated his 1,000th surgery on the da Vinci robot, representing 1,000 people like Brad who got home to their families sooner – with less pain, less risk of infection and fewer lingering side effects. For Brad, the impact was “nothing short of miraculous.”

The da Vinci robot was first brought to St. Joseph’s in 2005 through $3 million in visionary donations from the community – making St. Joseph’s a pioneering hospital in the use of the system. “If science and technology bring about changes that will result in better and healthier outcomes for patients, then I think we have to support it,” says Brad Duncan. “We all want what’s best for our community. The technology made all the difference for me.”

Surgical excellence and accelerated recoveries are just some of the reasons why your donation matters here. Learn how you can support innovation at St. Joseph’s today.

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