First robotic adrenalectomy completed at a Mayo Clinic Health System site

This will continued to be offered to area patients depending on the pathology of their condition

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT)– For one rural Holmen man it started as a backache that wasn’t quite right and soon led to a startling discovery. His Mayo Clinic Health System doctor used this as an opportunity to help him while expanding robotic surgery options locally.

After sitting in his home for weeks watching television and relaxing, Don Polivoda is ready to get back to work.

“That’s for sure,” Polivoda said.

Around July 2019, he had a backache that quickly turned into something more.

“They say to check for a stone. So they did that and there was,” Polivoda said.

The large kidney stone was removed from his right kidney. But through this process, his team found something else above his left kidney.

“I had an adrenal tumor,” he said.

It was an issue his medical provider first saw a few years ago.

“It was about four centimeters and it has grown to eight centimeters,” said Dr. Scott Pate, a provider with Mayo Clinic Health System’s Urology Department in La Crosse.

That growth over time was concerning. It was time to take it out.

“It turned out to be a good thing,” Polivoda said.

Pate explained that they could take it out through robotic surgery. Pate performs other types of robotic surgeries about every week on the bladder, prostate or kidney. He said he does have experience with robotic adrenalectomies elsewhere, but these procedures are not done as often compared to other surgeries he performs.

“This type of surgery, robotic adrenalectomy, has been performed in Phoenix, Rochester, and Jacksonville previously,” Pate said.

But a robotic adrenalectomy has never be performed at one of Mayo Clinic’s dozens of Health System sites.

“What that allows you to do is through very small incisions is to access the abdomen,” Pate said.

An adrenal gland sits above each kidney and produces hormones that regulate blood pressure, fight or flight response, metabolism and sex hormones. Historically, removing the gland is done through a large incision below the ribcage in the front or further toward the back on the flank.

“The adrenal gland is not a big organ but it sits very far posteriorly in the body,” Pate said.

Traditionally, it would have to make a relatively large, painful incision to get it. But robotic surgery offers a few key points for patients.

“Less blood loss, shorter length of stay, less pain and less narcotic use is what we’re seeing as a great advantage of for robotic surgery,” Pate said.

The Mayo Clinic Health System team made a few incisions to remove Polivoda’s adrenal gland to get it out of an incision about two finger widths apart. The surgery completed in mid-February went well. While he had some discomfort, Polivoda’s pain management was minimal after surgery.

“I just went to Tylenol when I needed it,” Polivoda said.

He was on weight restrictions for a few weeks as he healed. His team had him get up for small walks around the house to keep him moving. But now having healed, he’s ready to get out of the house again.

“It went pretty well. I was pretty happy with this robotic surgery. It ended up being the way to go,” Polivoda said.

Pate said he does have more of these robotic surgeries coming up. This will be something the provider could offer, depending on what disease you may have.