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Diverting from Diverticulitis

Posted on April 20, 2022 in Blog

Robotic-Assisted Surgery Gives Local Woman Reprieve from Abdominal Pain

Judy Caldwell moved to East Tennessee after becoming enchanted with the Smoky Mountains. She enjoys tending the flowers on the property she recently purchased, playing music and buying and selling antiques. Most of all, she enjoys being surrounded by her friends and family in the place she now calls home.

Caldwell maintains a balanced, healthy lifestyle and has not had any major health crises in her life. But two years ago, she began experiencing discomfort in her colon which worsened over time.

Eventually, she was diagnosed with diverticulitis. Diverticulitis, or inflammation of the lower colon, occurs when weakened intestinal tissue becomes inflamed or perforates, which can lead to an abscess or blockage in the colon.

At Fort Sanders Regional

After several hospital visits from issues stemming from diverticulitis, Caldwell was introduced to colon and rectal surgeon Sung Lee, MD, a surgeon at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center. Dr. Lee specializes in colon and rectal surgery with interest in minimally invasive surgeries such as laparoscopic and robotic surgery.

“Mrs. Caldwell had been in and out of the hospital with pain and bleeding from complications of diverticulitis,” Dr. Lee reports. “We had scheduled her surgery for a later date, but after she presented at the emergency department with GI pain and complications, we moved up the surgery date.”

Last December, Dr. Lee performed a robotic colon resection where he removed a portion of her lower colon called the sigmoid colon. Dr. Lee says, “Because she only had a portion resected, I reconnected the descending colon to the rectum, so she did not did not require an ostomy bag. She did very well and went home after staying a few nights in the hospital.”

Caldwell says, “Dr. Lee and his nurse, Leisa, were just wonderful. He explained what would happen in surgery and he put my mind at ease. I’ve never had major surgery before, so it was nerve wracking. I was scared about being under anesthesia and worried about healing, but everything went great.”

Robotic-Assisted Surgery

Dr. Lee explains that any minimally invasive procedure, whether robotic-assisted or laparoscopic, allows the patient to have a faster recovery. Minimally invasive, robotic-assisted procedures are recommended over open surgeries when possible because patients can return to normal functions faster. Typically with robotic-assisted technology, patients have better outcomes, shorter hospital stays and less pain.

“For this procedure, we make a few little cuts and use a robot to access the inside of the abdomen,” Dr. Lee explains. “The longest cut we make is about four centimeters. With the magnified 3D vision, we can see five to ten times more than the naked eye can, so we can spare nerves and make careful dissections.”

“Fort Sanders Regional was phenomenal,” Caldwell says. “I have such a heart for the nurses now, seeing everything they do. They were all wonderful, as was Dr. Lee when he checked on
me after surgery.”

Despite the high recurrence rates of diverticulitis, the procedure was curative and Caldwell has had no discomfort since the procedure.

Faith, Friends and Family

Dr. Lee explains that patients experiencing GI distress from diverticulitis may have fever or chills, and may notice a change in bowel habits such as constipation or diarrhea, GI bleed, or pain in the lower left quadrant of the abdomen. If these symptoms persist, he says a medical provider should be contacted. “Once the colon becomes inflamed, it may
not go back to normal without medical intervention,” Dr. Lee says.

As spring approaches, Caldwell is looking forward to resuming her active lifestyle of walking on trails and antiquing. She is involved with a women’s Bible study, and hosts her nieces, nephews and their children at her home. “Family is just everything,” she says. “I love having them around. It just gives me energy, like I’m being revitalized.”

The retiree says her faith in God has been an important part of her recovery, and she would recommend Dr. Lee and Fort Sanders Regional to anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation.

“I am so thankful!” she says.

For more information about robotic-assisted surgery, visit http://FSRegional.com/Robotic-Surgery.