Robotic Surgery a Success for Diverticulitis Patient   

Robotic Surgery a Success for Diverticulitis Patient

Dennis Johnson

Like many people, Dennis Johnson of Edison, New Jersey, was not familiar with robotic-assisted surgery. But when diverticulitis in his sigmoid colon perforated and led to peritonitis, his surgeon used this cutting-edge technique to save his life and dramatically reduce the time he needed to heal compared to traditional open surgery.

In spring 2022, Dennis, a 48-year-old environmental director at a long-term care facility, experienced discomfort in his lower abdomen. One day, he experienced extreme pain after eating lunch at work and was rushed to the emergency department at Raritan Bay Medical Center, where a CAT (computer-aided tomography) scan revealed diverticulitis and a small abscess in his sigmoid colon (the end of the large intestine just before the rectum).

Dennis’ doctor, Nikolai Markov, D.O., admitted him to the hospital for three nights for intravenous antibiotic treatment, the typical treatment for this condition at that stage. Dennis recovered and returned to work two days later. A week later, his symptoms came back with a vengeance, and he went back to the emergency department.

A Life-threatening Finding

This time, the CAT scan showed Dennis’ condition quickly had become much more serious, with two perforations and a substantial peritonitis infection, a life-threatening condition. Dr. Markov told Dennis he required surgery to close the tears in his colon and clean out the infection.

Dr. Markov offered two options: 

  • The first was an exploratory laparotomy, which would include removal of part of Dennis’ colon and creation of a colostomy. If he chose this option, Dennis would need follow-up surgery to close the colostomy three to six months later.
  • The second option was minimally invasive, robotic-assisted surgery using the da Vinci system, conducted at Old Bridge Medical Center. It would only require three small incisions instead of opening up his abdomen. The surgery would take about 45 minutes instead of two hours and would not require a colostomy and its eventual reversal surgery.

Dr. Markov, who has performed more than 500 robotic procedures, says: “The da Vinci is preferable to open surgery because the robot gives you the ability to perform complex operations without having to open the patients. This, in turn, results in faster recovery and much less pain for the patient.”

Coincidentally, two years earlier, Dr. Markov performed traditional open surgery for the same diagnosis for Dennis’s girlfriend, Joelle Richards. Dennis cared for her as she healed from surgery and colostomy reversal. Knowing what she went through, he chose the robotic option.

Relief from Diverticulitis

Dennis was transferred to Old Bridge as a critical admission, and Dr. Markov performed the surgery that same day. This time, Dennis was hospitalized for three nights to allow for post-operative observation and to teach him to care for his incision sites. He was released from the hospital with one week of home IV medication and temporary dietary restrictions.

A little more than a month post-surgery, Dennis and family members were able to enjoy a long-planned Florida vacation. He was able to return to work without the need for colostomy reversal surgery and its month-long recovery period. Just a few months after surgery, Dennis, a former college wrestler, was able to volunteer as a wrestling coach for younger kids through a local recreation program.

Next Steps & Resources:

The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.



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