Endometriosis, a condition caused by the abnormal growth of the endometrial lining of the uterus, can be an incredibly challenging disease to treat. It can easily spread, so that it affects not only the uterus, but also other organs in the body.
Unfortunately, this is exactly what happened to Katherine, a 36-year-old woman from Portland, Oregon.
In one of the most complicated cases surgeons at El Camino Hospital had ever seen, Katherine had lost almost all of the function in her left kidney due to severe endometriosis affecting her major organs, nerves and blood vessels, leading to crippling pain and swelling in her leg. On nonstop pain medication, Katherine was told she would have to live that way for the rest of her life. See Katherine's video.
Fortunately, Katherine refused to believe that there were no other options for her. And she was right.
Katherine decided to consult with Dr. Camran Nezhat, an El Camino Hospital surgeon and one of the world's foremost experts on the treatment of endometriosis and infertility. Nezhat determined that minimally invasive techniques could, in fact, be used to successfully remove her endometriosis and cure Katherine of her debilitating pain.
“Katherine’s case was one of the most advanced cases of endometriosis I had ever seen," recalls Nezhat, who collaborated with urologist Frank Lai and cardiovascular surgeon Ramin Beygui on the surgery, performed in June 2010.
Da Vinci in Action
Using El Camino Hospital's new da Vinci Robotic Surgical System, a device that enables surgeons to perform complex and delicate procedures through very small incisions with unmatched precision, the three-surgeon team removed her damaged kidney and treated the endometriosis that had extended into her kidney, uterus, ovaries, bladder, bowel, ureter, blood vessels and nerves.
"This was an extremely difficult and intensive case, but the surgery went perfectly. I am pleased with the outcome and foresee a rapid recovery for the patient," says Nezhat.
Although many people are not aware of the disease, the National Institutes of Health reports that at least 5.5 million women in the United States suffer from endometriosis. The condition often leads to infertility, with 30 to 40 percent of women with endometriosis experiencing difficulty conceiving a child.
But the condition can be treated and, once treated, women who formerly suffered from it may be able to become pregnant. "Not only can surgery relieve the pain that women with endometriosis experience, but in most cases pregnancy can be achieved once the condition is brought under control," says Nezhat.
A True Pioneer
For Nezhat, helping women with endometriosis has been a life-long calling. Nezhat was the first surgeon in the United States to treat extensive endometriosis of the ureter, bladder, bowel, liver and diaphragm laparoscopically, and he invented many of the techniques now widely used. He also was the first to demonstrate the tremendous potential of video laparoscopy, and has taught the technique to hundreds of surgeons from all over the world.
For his dedication to helping women fight this disease and his contributions to the field of minimally invasive and robotic surgery, Nezhat was recently honored by the Endometriosis Foundation of America.
But probably most important to Nezhat is not the many national awards he’s received, it’s the appreciation of patients like Katherine, whose lives have been forever changed thanks to his efforts.