Penn Highlands Healthcare Physician Embraces Robotic Technology: First In Region To Robotically Remove a Bladder and Create a Urinary Diversion

DuBois, Pennsylvania, Dec. 05, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Some of your earliest images of a robot may be R2-D2 or C-3PO from the Star Wars franchise. Maybe you remember Rosie, the robotic maid, from the animated television show The Jetsons. The concept of robots and robotic assistance has been around for decades but the actual use of robotics in everything from manufacturing to medicine is constantly being perfected to serve more purposes.

In 2021, surgeons at Penn Highlands Healthcare began using the advanced da Vinci Xi robotic-assisted surgical system to perform a wide range of delicate and complex operations. Today, in addition to being used for general surgery, the da Vinci robot is assisting surgeons who perform urologic, colorectal and gynecologic surgeries at Penn Highlands DuBois.

John S. Banerji, MD, a physician with Penn Highlands Urology in Clearfield and DuBois, Pennsylvania, has been using the robotic-assisted system for his surgeries. Dr. Banerji was the first physician in Central Pennsylvania to perform a robotic radical cystectomy and create a urinary diversion, which is the removal of the whole bladder and nearby lymph nodes and the creation of a new passage route for the urine to exit the body. While some surgeons remove the bladder robotically and then convert to open surgery for the urinary diversion, Dr. Banerji performed the entire surgical procedure robotically. The patient, who was an 80-year-old woman with bladder cancer, has had a successful recovery following the surgery. 

“Robotic-assisted radical cystectomy (RARC) has been added to the techniques I use in treating patients with bladder cancer which invades the muscle,” Dr. Banerji explained. “Previously, patients would have a six- to eight-inch incision from the belly button down to the pubis, and they would be in the hospital for five to six days. With RARC, patients can be discharged within three days, with minimal pain, faster return to work and preservation of their appearance. Using the robot, we can mimic previously performed open/laparoscopic surgery with superior outcomes.”

Dr. Banerji recently completed his100th robotic case, which was a radical prostatectomy – surgery to remove the entire prostate gland and surrounding lymph nodes -- on a man with localized prostate cancer.

“Robotic radical prostatectomy for localized prostate cancer has been around for two decades and it is satisfying that we can provide the same level of care for patients in a rural setting like DuBois,” said Dr. Banerji.

When appropriate, Dr. Banerji uses the da Vinci system to perform minimally invasive surgery because with its camera and three instrument arms it offers enhanced vision, precision and dexterity. During the surgery, he controls all of the instruments – the robot does nothing on its own. For the patient, the robotic-assisted surgery offers a shorter hospital stay; smaller incisions which means less blood loss and minimal scarring; fewer complications; less pain medication; and a faster recovery.

“While it provides many advantages, the greatest benefits that robotic surgery offers is that it provides better access to the patient’s anatomy but requires less invasiveness,” explained Dr. Banerji. “The robot assists surgeons with movement into smaller areas where our hands cannot reach.”

Dr. Banerji provides advanced treatment options for disorders of the male and female urinary tract and the male reproductive system in a compassionate environment. In addition to robotic-assisted surgery for prostate, bladder and kidney cancer, he performs many other minimally invasive procedures such as those for adrenal tumors and lesions as well as bladder tumors. He also performs GreenLight laser prostate surgery to remove excess prostate tissue to relieve constriction of the urethra, and uses the UroLift system as an alternative to tissue removing surgery for an enlarged prostate. For those with ureteric and kidney stones, Dr. Banerji uses Ureteroscopy and Holmium laser lithotripsy.

For more information about the conditions treated by Dr. Banerji or for an appointment at his Clearfield or DuBois office, visit


John Banerji, MD with da Vinci robot John Banerji, MD sitting with da Vinci robot

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