Minimally invasive robotic surgery makes a major difference

Minimally invasive robotic surgery makes a major difference

If you ask Brittany Kurtz why she runs, hikes, paddle boards, and more, she’ll tell you it’s for sanity, not vanity. Exercise helps her stay centered and serene – not always easy for a mother of four! Brittany and her family love to take advantage of all that Marin has to offer for outdoor activities. That’s why it was particularly troubling when Brittany got sick, and couldn’t shake an illness that went on month after month.  

In August of 2013, Brittany began experiencing symptoms of a possible urinary tract infection. She felt draggy and tired and had a low-grade fever that wouldn’t subside.  Her urine was cloudy and she had dull pain in her low back. Brittany started by seeing her primary care physician, who gave her antibiotics. When the symptoms didn’t go away, she went to her gynecologist, who gave her another prescription for antibiotics. Again, there was no improvement. Now, Brittany could feel a soft lump, which her friends described as “squishy”, on her lower back. Taking a different tack, she consulted a naturopathic doctor who tried to help, and also recommended that she see an expert urologist.

At this point, Brittany couldn’t exercise or enjoy the great outdoors the way she liked. She had no energy and was in constant discomfort.  She did some research and scheduled a consultation with Dr. R. James Yu, Medical Director of Robotic Surgery and Urologic Oncology at MarinHealth Medical Center (then Marin General Hospital).  Dr. Yu ran tests and which revealed a large cyst on Brittany’s right kidney. Since it was highly unusual for a cyst to cause symptoms like Brittany’s, the doctor tried a few different non-invasive treatments before deciding on surgery. It became clear that the cyst had to go.

Dr. Yu performed Brittany’s minimally invasive surgery through four tiny incisions, using the da Vinci robot. The cyst had grown to the size of a grapefruit, and it was infected and packed with puss. It turned out to have been the culprit behind Brittany’s discomfort, and her symptoms vanished right after the surgery. She returned to the gym after two weeks, eager to start her new career as a CrossFit trainer.

Although it took her several months to get back to her original fitness level, Brittany is now back to all her favorite Marin activities, enjoying the outdoor life with her family.

This story was first published in Summer, 2014.