Transplant surgeon, Stuart R. Geffner, M.D., Director of Kidney and Pancreas Transplant Surgery, Saint Barnabas Health Care System Renal and Pancreas Transplant Division, is the first in the world to use the Intuitive Surgical's da Vinci Surgical System to successfully implant a kidney into a living recipient. This procedure revolutionizes kidney transplant surgery, taking an open procedure to an advanced form of laparoscopic surgery.
The robotic transplant requires a 5 cm incision which is just large enough to introduce the kidney into the recipient’s body. It is approximately one-third the size of a conventional ‘open’ transplant incision. I believe that this will be beneficial to the patient in terms of quicker recovery, as well as a lower incidence of the most frequent post-operative complications — wound infection and bleeding, states Dr. Geffner.
For Jim and Maureen Schrader, it was transformational. When Jim and Maureen met five years ago, they knew they were a perfect love match but they never realized just how perfect. A Type 1 diabetic since the age of 28, Maureen began to get sick around Christmas 2007. Over the ensuing months, her health deteriorated. One afternoon in early spring, her husband happened to stop home and found her passed out close to death on the floor. Soon after, doctors told her that her kidneys had failed and that she would need to have dialysis until a kidney donor was found.
They were referred to The Renal and Pancreas Transplant Division at Saint Barnabas Medical Center. Once at the hospital, they met the transplant team and learned about the road ahead. They discussed all of their options, transplant list as well as the Living Donor Institute. Jim was excited about the Living Donor Institute option where individuals interested in donating a kidney, whether a relation or altruistic donor, could register to donate. Jim immediately volunteered to be tested. He turned out to be a perfect match. The match was so perfect, people asked us if we were related. Five years ago God had us meet for a reason, and now we know why, stated Maureen.
Dr. Geffner performed the first robot assisted kidney transplant in the world on Maureen at Saint Barnabas Medical Center. He has since performed 8 other robot assisted kidney transplant surgeries.
Dr. Geffner is also the first renal transplant surgeon in the region to perform robot-assisted living donor kidney removal. However, prior to this surgery, implantation of the donor kidney into the recipient required traditional open surgery.
Dr. Geffner considers robot-assisted technology to be a remarkable surgical tool. He says, It is an advanced form of laparoscopic surgery that allows surgeons to do precision work with less trauma to the patient. Utilizing the da Vinci Surgical System, a laparoscopic camera and robotic probes are inserted into the patient through several small incisions. Pencil-sized probes translate the surgeon’s hand movements and adjust themselves to compensate for the natural tremor of the human hand. For the patient, robot-assisted surgery is safe, minimally invasive and offers faster recovery time.
Although the recovery process takes time, Maureen and Jim are both doing well. Maureen and Jim are grateful to have each other. Now as Jim reminds Maureen, Wherever you go, you will have a piece of me inside you. We are forever linked together.
Dr. Geffner has been has been associated with the Renal and Pancreas Transplant Division since 1995 — most recently as part of the Department of Transplant Surgery. During this time he has helped to build the program into one of the largest kidney and pancreas transplant centers in the US. Dr. Geffner’s expertise in transplant surgery has led him to achieve medical firsts in New Jersey regarding transplant surgery, including performing a transplant on the youngest pediatric patient in the state, performing New Jersey’s first laparoscopic kidney donation surgery, and performing the state’s first isolated pancreas transplant. He operates at both Saint Barnabas Medical Center and Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.