Alexandra Poudel, pictured with her children, became the first patient in North Texas to undergo this treatment for her colon.

A first for all of North Texas

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Ever been sick and wished you had listened to your mother? Alexandra Poudel sure does.

Earlier this year, the 36-year-old Plano resident thought her sudden abdominal pain was due to constipation. Instead, it turned out to be the same thing her mother had suffered from years before: severe diverticulitis.

“One Saturday morning, I had a twinge on my left side near my pelvis,” Alexandra says. “It got worse over the next two days. Even when I was doubled over in pain and severely bloated, I still blew off my mom’s opinion that it could be diverticulitis.”

By Tuesday evening, the pain sent her to the emergency department (ED). Not only was her mom right about it being diverticulitis, but Alexandra learned that she also had a hole in her colon, a life-threatening situation.

Choosing her treatment

When Danielle Giesler, MD, colorectal surgeon on the medical staff at Methodist Richardson Medical Center, met Alexandra in the ED, she explained more about the diverticulitis episode that brought her to the hospital.

“Diverticulitis happens when one or more pouches in the colon, called diverticula, becomes inflamed,” Dr. Giesler says. “Diverticula are common. They’re found in your colon and aren’t usually harmful to your digestive system. But when they get inflamed due to infection, they can cause pain and other symptoms.”

Dr. Giesler put two choices before Alexandra.

“I could make lifestyle changes, including daily medications, and still have a 40% chance of going through this again,” Alexandra says. “My other option was to surgically remove the infected parts of my colon, which carries a less than 5% chance of diverticulitis recurring.”

For Alexandra, the choice was easy: Surgery would give her back the quality of life she desired.

Originally, Dr. Giesler planned to perform the procedure, a colon resection, robotically with the da Vinci® surgical system. This tool allows the surgeon to perform a minimally invasive technique with small incisions and enhanced visual guidance, range of motion, and precision.

Neither woman knew that just one month later they would both make history for colorectal surgery in North Texas.

“Diverticulitis happens when one or more pouches in the colon, called diverticula, becomes inflamed.” — Danielle
Giesler, MD.

A first for her and the hospital

On March 6, Alexandra expected to undergo her robot-assisted surgery as planned, but Dr. Giesler had a new plan. She wanted to try a new approach, one that would give Alexandra an even faster, less painful recovery. Alexandra agreed.

“The approach is called NICE and stands for natural orifice intracorporeal anastomosis,” Dr. Gielser says. “It means that I was able to take out about a foot of her infected colon through her rectum instead of needing to make an incision in her abdomen.”

Alexandra became the first patient in North Texas to have this surgery, and Dr. Giesler credits the da Vinci robotic technology at Methodist Richardson as a big part of why this operation was possible.

“The system acts like an extension of my hands, arms, and eyes,” Dr. Giesler says. “I look at a magnified, 3D vision of the patient while guiding the tiny instruments attached to the robotic arms. The reduced risk, shorter recovery, and improved accuracy make this system a game changer.”

Back to being herself

Alexandra says she woke up from her surgery with very little pain and happily went home less than 24 hours after the procedure. She shocked her coworkers when she returned to her marketing job at an assisted living facility less than two weeks later.

“I will be forever grateful I chose to go to Methodist Richardson,” Alexandra says. “That surgery couldn’t have been performed just anywhere or by anyone. It let me get back to being myself so quickly.

“And you’d better believe I’m going to tease my kids with this when it comes to ‘Mom knows best.’”

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