da Vinci robotic surgical system

©2014 Intuitive Surgical, Inc.

I had prostate cancer and chose to have it treated with surgery using the da Vinci® robotic surgical system. Did it hurt?   Stay tuned, and I’ll tell you all about it. I am an average guy without an agenda, so I’ll give you the straight info.

Before I answer the question, first a little background.  Let me walk you through the couple of days before and the couple of days after the surgery, so you’ll better understand my answer.

Before the surgery, I had to fast and then drink that colon flushing solution – just like you would before a routine colonoscopy.  Apparently, for pelvic area surgery, they want the colon completely empty.  So as anyone who has had a colonoscopy before can attest, this part of the program is not all that great.

Now it’s one day before surgery, and I’m not supposed to eat anything. I’m also visiting the toilet day and night. And then the night before surgery, I had to cut out all liquids too.  I feel for those nurses who had to try to find a vein to start my IV the next morning after I hadn’t had anything to eat or drink for a while – my veins were flat.

Then on the day of surgery, they administered general anesthesia which is really a whole cocktail of things designed to handle various aspects of being “under.”   After that, at least in my case, the anesthesiologist inserted some kind of breathing tube in my throat for the duration of the surgery, and I felt the aftereffects of that for quite a while – some slight bruising in the throat, I guess.

Then when I woke up after surgery, I felt pretty groggy from the anesthesia “hangover” and the other drugs they gave me while I was under, and that takes a good while to wear off.  I noticed that my throat hurt from the breathing tube – well, maybe not “hurt” so much, but you can tell something was going on there while you were “away.”

So #1, you don’t feel that great from not eating and drinking before the surgery and maybe you didn’t sleep well the night before surgery.  Now after surgery, you’re waking up groggy and fighting off the aftereffects of general anesthesia and someone having inserted a breathing tube down your throat.

Ok, but what about the robotic surgery itself?  I just had my prostate gland removed. What about the cutting that was going on down there? What about the scar tissue?  Do I feel anything? Does anything hurt?

Here’s the kicker.  When you wake up after surgery, nobody feels that great. But why?  If you mentally exclude all of the things like colon clean out, fasting, no water, grogginess from anesthesia recovery, breathing tube, etc., is there really any “other” pain?

I have to honestly say, no there wasn’t. For me, anyway. I didn’t have any.  That’s just crazy.

In the recovery room, I pulled down the blanket that was covering me, and all I saw were some “keyholes” or ports where the robot inserted its instruments to do its thing.  Actually, the robot is not doing its thing; your doctor is performing 100% of the surgery and is controlling the robot’s instruments.

But I felt totally normal down there – no pain at all.  What?  This can’t be.  And I felt nothing internally either, nothing on the “inside.”

Now, later, in my room, I did start to notice a couple of things from the surgery.  First of all, when I tried to sit up in bed to drink some water or watch TV, I felt like the day after I had just done 100 sit ups.  I later found out that this was probably due to the one inch incision that was made in my belly button area to actually transport the prostate gland out of my body.

Secondly, I had this bloated feeling in my abdomen that took a couple of days to dissipate.  It’s not really painful, so much as it is uncomfortable.  That bloated feeling is from the CO2 gas that they injected into my abdominal area to allow my doctor to see things more clearly.  That’s OK with me, I want him to see as clearly as possible when working down there, thank you very much.

Nobody likes surgery, of course, but the whole point I am trying to make is that there really wasn’t much pain from the da Vinci-robotic-prostate-removal surgery itself.  If I’m being honest with myself and separate out all the other stuff that occurred before and after the surgery, there really isn’t much to talk about as far as “pain” goes from the surgery itself, which I think is kind of unbelievable.