Iowa's Robotic Leader Helps Patients Beat Cancer

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Iowa's Robotic Leader Helps Patients Beat Cancer

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Kent Ellis is back to work at the Iowa Department of Transportation after robotic surgery for prostate cancer.
Kent Ellis is thrilled to be cancer- free. The Coralville man learned he had prostate cancer a couple of years ago after a routine physical. He and his doctor initially used active surveillance to keep a watchful eye on the cancer. However, this spring there were signs the cancer was progressing.

Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in men. Chances of having prostate cancer increases with age. It can initially present with no signs or symptoms.

“Part of the active surveillance for my prostate cancer was to have a biopsy every year,” explained Ellis. “This is when we noted a significant increase in cancer cells from my previous biopsy. I talked it over with my doctor and we decided surgery was the best route to get rid of the cancer.”

Ellis decided to have a robotic prostatectomy. His doctor is Jonathan Rippentrop, MD, a urologist at Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa (PCI). Dr. Rippentrop was one of the first surgeons to perform robotic surgery in Cedar Rapids in 2005 at UnityPoint Health - St. Luke’s Hospital. Dr. Rippentrop is the director of minimally invasive surgery at St. Luke’s. The hospital is Iowa’s Robotic Leader, which means more robotic surgeries are performed at St. Luke’s than any hospital in the state and St. Luke’s is a training facility for surgeons across the country.

“Hearing about robotic surgery and how it can operate and preserve nerves, I thought this latest technology was the way to go for me,” said Ellis. “I am just amazed the doctor can sit on one side of the operating room and manipulate those surgical tools. Those surgeons are miracle workers at what they can do with robotic technology.” 

“St. Luke’s is looking to the next generation of robotics to continue the evolution in a responsible way,” said Dr. Rippentrop. “Robotics continues to be an important and ever-changing tool in surgery and patient care. It has many advantages to traditional open surgery. It uses smaller incisions, which allows patients a faster recovery, less pain and patients are generally out of the hospital the day after surgery. From a surgical perspective, the high definition visualization - coupled with the precision of the robotic arms - allows surgeons the ability to do very technical and delicate operations, which results in better outcomes for the patient. This surgery would get rid of Kent’s cancer and get him back to living his life faster.”

In April, Ellis had a robotic prostatectomy. Dr. Rippentrop removed Ellis’ prostate and lymph nodes. After a couple of days at St. Luke’s, Ellis returned to his Coralville home. 

“It’s been about three months since my surgery and I feel really good,” said Ellis. “I’ve been walking a lot. I get my 10,000 steps in a day. I feel out of the woods. I didn’t want to wait too long to have surgery. I wanted to get it behind me. I was OK to do active surveillance at first, but when my numbers jumped I thought I don’t want this sneaking up on me. I have too many more things I want to do in life.”

If you have surgery in your future – learn about the 15 different robotic surgeries offered at St. Luke’s.