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Advanced Surgical Treatments Are Closer to Home at UPMC Passavant

UPMC Passavant provides a wide range of advanced, award-winning health care at two convenient campuses in McCandless and Cranberry Township. From the most common to the most complex surgical procedures, the experts at UPMC Passavant leverage state-of-the-art technology to offer patients the top, advanced surgical treatment options.

Surgeons Robotically Repair Hernias, Remove Gallbladders

Kevin Garrett, MD, a surgeon and chair of the UPMC Department of General Surgery at UPMC Passavant–McCandless, specializes in large, robotic general surgeries focusing on the hernia, gallbladder, and soft tissue, as well as emergency general procedures. Dr. Garrett and his team utilize robots in multiple minimally invasive surgeries to repair complex ventral (abdominal wall) and inguinal (groin) hernias and remove gallbladders.

“Additional advanced surgical treatments we perform include emergency open and laparoscopic abdominal operations, which are minimally invasive procedures that require only small incisions to evaluate the organs,” adds Dr. Garrett.

Dr. Garrett’s team of four general surgeons use tiny surgical instruments and a high-definition 3D camera as part of the robotic da Vinci® Surgical System. Rather than make a large incision to perform surgery, doctors make small cuts to insert the camera and tools. With robotic surgery, the surgeon can make more precise movements, while maintaining complete control over each one.

Robotic-assisted surgery benefits patients as well because the minimally invasive technique can lead to fewer complications, faster recoveries, and less time spent in the hospital.

The surgical team also collaborates with a colorectal surgeon and surgical oncologists—providing patients with comprehensive care, right in their neighborhood.

Minimally Invasive Neurosurgical Procedures

Matt El-Kadi, MD, PhD, chief of Neurosurgery at UPMC Passavant and director of the UPMC Spine Center, says his team offers patients a wide spectrum of treatments ranging from conservative approaches, to minimally invasive surgery, to the most complex interventions, such as spinal fusion and stabilization.

“Our minimally invasive surgical procedures include a microdiscectomy where patients are able to go home the same day,” says Dr. El-Kadi. This procedure treats patients with “pinched” nerves in the spinal column caused by herniated or ruptured discs.

The UPMC Passavant team performs another minimally invasive procedure called kyphoplasty to treat compression fractures and abnormal configurations typically caused by osteoporosis. The surgery has high success rates for:

• Stopping pain caused by fractures

• Stabilizing the bone

• Restoring some or all vertebral body height lost due to compression

Robert Bailey, MD, a neurosurgeon in the UPMC Department of Neurosurgery, specializes in the surgical management of degenerative spine disease of the cervical (upper), thoracic (middle), and lumbar (lower) spine, utilizing both traditional and minimally invasive approaches.

“Whenever possible, we select the least invasive procedures that would result in the greatest outcome for the patient—focusing on greatly improving their symptoms,” says Dr. Bailey. “For example, a microdiscectomy or foraminotomy, a decompression surgery, may be preferred rather than proceeding initially with a multi-level instrumented spinal fusion.”

Fighting Cancer with Innovative Surgical Treatments

At UPMC Passavant, patients have access to UPMC’s renowned Hillman Cancer Center physicians and care—without having to travel to the city. They also have more treatment options, thanks to advanced robotic-assisted technology. UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is proud to offer one of the world's largest and most comprehensive programs in robotic cancer surgery.

In 2020, UPMC Passavant introduced a minimally invasive alternative to traditional open surgery for liver resection procedures, which entails cutting out the liver to cure liver cancer.

“This technology means more patients can receive the benefits of minimally invasive surgery. In general, they have less pain, enjoy a shorter hospital stay, and experience faster recovery,” says David Geller, MD, director of the UPMC Liver Cancer Center.

Several features contribute to a more precise and efficient surgery:

• A magnified 3D view of the patient’s anatomy

• The ability to use tiny arms and instruments in the procedure

• The robotic arms never become fatigued

Even though the surgeons utilize a minimally invasive technique, liver surgery is a very complex procedure that requires the collaboration of a group of experienced surgical oncologists, nurses, technicians, and anesthesiologists working together in the operating room (OR).

“It takes a lot of orchestration in the OR to perform. We work as a team to take care of the patient,” says Melanie Ongchin, MD, chief of surgical oncology at UPMC Passavant.

According to Samer Tohme, MD, a surgical oncologist who leads the program at UPMC Passavant–McCandless, the team has completed 30 procedures since August 2020.

Dr. Geller adds, “We’re providing a full-scale service for liver evaluation, surgery, and follow-up care. And it’s right in our patients’ backyard.”

Detecting Lung Cancer More Precisely

In 2020, UPMC Passavant–McCandless became the first hospital in the Pittsburgh area to use the Monarch™ robotic bronchoscopy system. Since then, the hospital has completed more than 125 surgeries utilizing this cutting-edge tool in the battle against lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.

With robotic bronchoscopy, doctors can more easily maneuver into the lung’s tiniest passages to inspect suspicious lesions and collect tissue samples to determine whether they are cancerous or benign. The technology combines the latest advancements in robotics, software, and data science with minimally invasive endoscopy, which uses small cameras and tools to enter the body through the patient’s mouth—allowing for earlier, more precise detection of cancer.

“Early diagnosis is critical,” says Ryan Levy, MD, chief of Thoracic Surgery at UPMC Passavant and thoracic surgeon with UPMC Hillman Cancer Center. “When lung cancer is detected at an earlier stage, we’re able to offer our patients more treatment options—meaning patients have better outcomes and increased cancer-free rates.”

Dr. Levy adds that UPMC Passavant is now using the robotic bronchoscopy platform to evaluate and treat pulmonary nodules and various lung lesions. Pulmonary (lung) nodules are very common and can be benign or cancerous. Approximately half of smokers over the age of 50 will have nodules present on a computerized tomography (CT) scan of their chest. Dr. Levy and his partner, Nicholas Baker, MD, a surgeon in the UPMC Department of Thoracic Surgery, utilize the bronchoscope technology to pinpoint these nodules and conduct immunofluorescence dye marking of the lung lesions to facilitate a resection surgery that removes the lesions.

In addition to liver and lung cancer operations, UPMC Passavant surgical oncologists leverage robotic techniques in various procedures, such as:

• Pancreaticoduodenectomy, also known as a Whipple procedure, to treat pancreatic cancer

• Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemoperfusion to treat peritoneal carcinomatosis, a rare type of cancer that can develop when gastrointestinal or gynecologic cancers spread

Highly Specialized Surgical Services for Women

At UPMC Passavant, UPMC Magee-Womens Specialty Services offer comprehensive women’s health care, including state-of-the-art surgery.

Robert Edwards, MD, is chair of the UPMC Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, co-leader of the UPMC Gynecologic Cancer Program, and a surgeon at UPMC Passavant. He sees patients at both UPMC Passavant locations and in Oakland at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital.

His research focuses on ovarian cancer and how to better design treatments that combine surgery, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy to prevent cancer from coming back. “Whether it’s making a first attempt at removing the disease using surgery or performing surgery after reducing some of the cancer with chemotherapy, we can usually get about 80 percent of patients cancer free,” says Dr. Edwards.

When it comes to gynecologic cancer surgery, more than 50 percent of the cases are laparoscopic.

“Ovarian cancer is unique amongst solid tumors in that it can be removed by surgery, particularly at the first signs of it, and may require several hours to extract the tumor,” says Dr. Edwards.

Patients who undergo minimally invasive procedures like this typically experience the following advantages:

• Less bleeding and scarring

• Reduced pain

• Shorter hospital stays

• Quicker recovery

• Earlier returns to normal activity

• Smaller scars

In addition to delivering high-end surgical treatments for patients with gynecologic malignancies, UPMC Passavant’s four gynecologic oncologists provide comprehensive care in offering the latest in cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis, other treatments, such as chemotherapy, and staging, as well as access to experimental treatment options and clinical trials.

Dr. Edwards adds, “With the team-based cancer care, UPMC Passavant is very impressive.”

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