First Robot-Assisted Surgery at Stony Brook a Success for Orient Resident


normal medium large


    Four weeks after historic case, David Moore takes long walks, day trips, and his incision marks are barely visible

    STONY BROOK, N.Y., October 17, 2007 - Earlier this year, David Moore (pictured center) didn't know much about prostate cancer except that his brother-in-law was diagnosed with it 10 years ago and subsequently underwent major surgery to have his prostate removed.

    "He talked about how much pain he was in during the recovery, and that even now he experiences some after affects," said David, 67, a retired high school social studies teacher from Orient.

    Prostate cancer is cancer of the small walnut-shaped gland in men that produces seminal fluid, the fluid that nourishes and transports sperm. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it is the leading cancer affecting men of all races in the United States.

    David got to know the disease up close and personal in April, when his primary care physician  informed him that his routine Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test came back elevated, which indicated he needed a biopsy.

    The news came shortly after he and his wife Jan returned from a trip to the Cayman Islands where they celebrated their 40th anniversary. Prior to that, David had no major health concerns. Regular check ups, exercise, and a healthy diet have helped him and his wife maintain clean bills of health. With two grown children who are settled with families of their own, the retired schoolteachers have been free to choose how they spend their leisure time. They enjoy a regular round of golf, spend as much time as they can with their five grandchildren, and go to the gym regularly. Following retirement, David picked up a job as an expediter in a local law firm; Jan loves to read.

    "When the biopsy results came in, they told me I had cancer cells in eight out of 12 cores of my prostate," said David. "Not as bad as it could have been, because the cancer was isolated to the prostate."

    He needed to decide between surgery to remove the prostate and various forms of radiation therapy. At that point, he and Jan began to interview specialists, and it was then they met Dr. Wayne Waltzer, Chairman in the Department of Urology at Stony Brook University Medical Center (pictured right), who discussed the various treatment options available to him.

    After researching his condition, discussing it at length with his doctors, and considering his options with Jan and other family members, David made the decision to have Dr. Waltzer remove his prostate with open surgery. He and Jan decided together that it gave him the best chance of survival and would significantly reduce the chance of recurrence.

    David felt the benefits of surgery far outweighed the risks, which he understood after speaking to his brother-in-law. He knew he was in for a painful recovery and potential for prolonged incontinence.

    David and Jan were mentally and emotionally prepared. The surgery was scheduled in September, and they were going in with their eyes open. So when Dr. Waltzer asked them to come in for a consult in early September, they were apprehensive. That apprehension soon turned to interest when they learned that another option for removing the prostate was newly available at Stony Brook - minimally-invasive robot assisted surgery on the hospital's new da Vinci® S HDTM Surgical System, the most technically advanced da Vinci® robotic-assisted surgical system available.

    Since the couple had already determined that surgery was the way to go, it was not a difficult decision to have the Robotic procedure. They met with the new Director of Robotic and Minimally Invasive Surgery, Rahul Bhalla, M.D. (pictured left). Dr. Bhalla completed Urology and Surgery residencies at Stony Brook, after which he completed a Fellowship in Robotic Surgery, and spent three years building a Robotic Surgery program at the University medical center in New Jersey. He returned to Stony Brook in September to start the Robotic Surgery Program.

    David was Dr. Bhalla's first case at Stony Brook, and he and Jan could not be more pleased and impressed with the results. He had the surgery at Stony Brook on a Thursday, and was headed back to his home in Orient with Jan the next day.

    "Thanks to the da Vinci robot, we are coming as close as possible to curing cancer with fewer side effects," said Dr. Bhalla. "Mr. Moore is a perfect example of this. Like all patients who undergo robotic surgery, he still needs time to rest and recover, but he did extremely well."

    "I feel good," said David, on the day of his discharge, standing in his hospital room, waiting for final instructions from Dr. Bhalla and Dr. Waltzer. "Dr. Bhalla says I can't run a marathon just yet, but I can go back to work very soon. That's much different than what my brother-in-law went through to recover from his prostate surgery."

    Today, four weeks later, David says his recovery is going very well. His incision marks are nearly gone, Jan "allows" him to do light chores around the yard, and he'll likely get clearance to go back to work after a Nov. 1 follow up appointment with Dr. Waltzer.

    "We are filling this time quite nicely," says David. "Plenty of day trips, walks and planning future vacations offer time well spent."

    For more information about the da Vinci system and robotic surgery at Stony Brook University Medical Center, call Stony Brook University Hospital HealthConnect at 631-444-4000, or go to