Bringing our Twitter Followers into the Operating Room

August 27, 2012

UT Medicine Urologist to perform a new surgical technique “live” on Twitter
Patient hopes to raise awareness of bladder cancer risks and symptoms

When 67-year-old Roger Williams was diagnosed with bladder cancer, his top priority was finding the very best treatment available so he’d be around to see his son get married and his grandchildren grow up. As he heads into the operating room (OR) at University Hospital Thursday morning, he knows he’s in the best hands. He’s also proud his procedure will be helping inform others about the risks and signs of bladder cancer, and educating medical students and physicians about a new technique that can lessen blood loss and shorten recovery times for patients requiring complete bladder removal.

Dr. Robert Svatek, urologist at UT Medicine San Antonio, the clinical practice of the School of Medicine of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, will be performing a total-intracorporeal robotic cystectomy. Only a handful of other doctors in the country are performing this complex operation utilizing the da Vinci® robot for every step. As Dr. Svatek operates the robot, another person in the OR will be sharing what is happening, and posting the doctor’s answers to questions, via a live feed on Twitter.

The first post will happen as the procedure gets underway at about 8:30 am. The continual live “Twittercast” will start at 2 pm as Dr. Svatek begins the portion of the operation that has only been done by a few surgeons using the robot.

Twitter users can follow the procedure and post questions to Dr. Svatek @UnivHealthSys using #UHSrobot. Those without Twitter accounts can follow the procedure on our Live Tweet web page or twitter.com/uthscsa. Expect to see updates and photos. Dr. Svatek, who is with UT Medicine’s Division of Urologic Oncology and serves as the medical director of University Hospital’s Robotic Surgery Program, recorded a short video explaining the three major steps of the procedure. Watch it online now at universityhealthsystem.com/cystectomy.

Just as the da Vinci® robot has revolutionized minimally invasive surgery at University Hospital, Thursday’s live tweet from the OR is pioneering a new interactive approach to education, giving followers a unique look into how surgeons here are utilizing the very latest tools and techniques to provide the highest level of care and expertise to the people of Bexar County and beyond.

Bladder cancer risk factors:

  • Tobacco use- Smoke, Dip, or Chew
  • Work exposure to certain chemicals (painters, hairdressers, machinists, printers, and truck drivers)
  • People over the age of 55
  • Chronic bladder irritation and infections
  • Not drinking enough liquids

Symptoms:

  • Blood in urine

Cystectomy is the removal of all or part of the bladder and possibly the removal of nearby lymph nodes and organs that may contain cancer. If the bladder is removed, the surgeon creates a new path for urine to be stored and to leave the body. In the traditional operation, the surgeon makes a large abdominal incision to access the bladder. Another approach, laparoscopy, is less invasive but due to the surgical instruments used, laparoscopy limits the doctor's dexterity, field of vision and control, compared to open surgery.

Robot-assisted Cystectomy* offers several potential benefits to bladder cancer patients over traditional open surgery, including:

  • Less pain
  • Less blood loss
  • Lower risk of complications
  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Quicker recovery of bowel function

*Most surgeons who do robot-assisted cystectomy use the traditional open abdomen technique for the final part of the operation: creating the urine drainage system. Dr. Robert Svatek is one of just a handful of surgeons using the robot for the entire procedure.