Robotic surgery is down-sized for pediatric urology patients

Your child kept complaining his stomach hurt, but you thought he was exaggerating and the pain would eventually go away. Then one day you saw blood in his urine and knew it was time to call the doctor.

Your pediatrician sent you to a pediatric urologist, and tests confirmed there was blockage at the ureteropelvic junction (UPJ).

Pediatric urologic surgeon Gino Vricella, MD, is a Washington University physician who leads the robotic pediatric surgery program at St. Louis Children’s hospital. Dr. Vricella explains, “One of the main jobs of the kidney is to filter the blood, and deliver the waste products (urine) to the bladder. The urine leaves the kidney, enters the renal pelvis, and then passes into the ureter through a funnel called the ureteropelvic junction (UPJ).

If there is a blockage at the UPJ, a child can experience abdominal pain and sometimes even a urinary tract infection or blood in the urine. If the obstruction is severe, this can cause significant build-up of urine in the kidney, resulting in kidney damage.”

The exact cause of UPJ obstruction is not known. The UPJ obstruction can be present at birth, which suggests it is usually due to an abnormality in the development of the muscle at the UPJ.

The UPJ obstruction can be surgically removed with a procedure called pyeloplasty using robotic surgery technology.

During pyelopasty, doctors remove the abnormal segment of the ureter causing the blockage, and the ureter is reconnected to the renal pelvis so urine can drain from the kidney into the bladder.

Dr. Vricella adds, “There are several urologic procedures that have greatly improved as a result of robotic surgery. Robotic surgery give doctors the ability to maneuver in small spaces more efficiently — which means less time under anesthesia. This also translates to faster recovery and healing time for the patients.”

St. Louis Children’s Hospital is one of only a few pediatric facilities in the country—and the only one in the St. Louis region—to offer robotic surgery for children needing urologic procedures. Dr. Vricella is highly skilled at performing pediatric robotic surgery and is on the forefront of developing robotic surgery techniques for the pediatric population.

For more information or to make an appointment with Dr. Vricella, please call 314-454-6034.

St. Louis Children’s Hospital
1 Children’s Place
St. Louis, MO 63110

St. Louis Children’s Specialty Care Center
13001 North Outer Forty
St. Louis, MO 63017