Advance with MUSC Health

Revolutionizing Healthcare in Rural Lancaster: Advanced Robotic Surgeries Now Available Closer to Home

Advance With MUSC Health
August 30, 2023
Aravind Viswanathan, M.D.
Dr. Aravind Viswanathan

Patients in Lancaster and nearby counties can now get the same treatment near home that they once had to travel hours to Charleston and other locations to receive.

When Aravind Viswanathan, M.D., joined the MUSC Health Lancaster Medical Center, he brought with him the capabilities and skills to perform procedures not previously available to patients in the area. As a fellowship-trained urologic oncologist and director of Robotics Lancaster Division, Dr. Viswanathan performs robot-aided surgeries, including prostatectomy (surgery to the prostate), nephrectomy (surgery to remove the kidney), and cystectomy (surgery to remove the urinary bladder).

“Before we offered these surgeries, patients had to wait to schedule a consultation in Charleston or across the state border,” says Dr. Viswanathan. “They had to drive there for the consultation and other adjunctive testing such as advanced imaging. Many patients can’t afford to travel long distances. Taking time off from their jobs to do so adds to the financial burden.”

Patients at the Lancaster Medical Center are now able to receive full treatment onsite, from pre-op to post-op care. “We perform the evaluations, the complex surgeries, and the follow-up,” explains Dr. Viswanathan. “We are a small hospital, but we provide the same full-service care a patient at MUSC Health in Charleston or Atrium Health in Charlotte would receive.”

Enhancing Access to Cutting-Edge Urologic Oncology

A fellowship-trained urologic oncologist, Dr. Viswanathan specializes in diseases of the urinary tract and the male reproductive system. His practice focuses on cancer of the urinary tract, which includes cancer of the kidney, bladder, and prostate. He also helps to treat rarer cancers of the genitourinary system, including penile cancer and testicular cancer, here in Lancaster.

Using the da Vinci Surgical System, Dr. Viswanathan is able “to do very precise incisions and movements because the visualization is tremendous,” he says. A treatment tool that results in less pain and shorter hospital stays for patients, robotic surgery uses 3D, high-definition visualization, enhanced imaging technology, improved ergonomics, and greater precision in movement. The surgeon controls the robotic instruments, which are designed to mimic and enhance his or her hands.

Patients are able to go home the same or the next day, and they experience faster healing and recovery time.

“While robotic surgery has several advantages, traditional open surgery still has a role for some select patients, and we are also able to offer this option,” he says.

Using Robotic and Laser Surgeries in Lancaster for Improved Patient Care

In addition to providing urologic cancer care, Dr. Viswanathan performs advanced surgical treatments for benign urological disease of the urinary tract, including holmium laser enucleation of the prostate (HoLep), a treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or enlarged prostate. Lancaster MUSC is one of few centers in the country that offers this surgery.

“We’re proud to be able to offer HoLep here in Lancaster because not many medical centers provide this treatment,” says Dr. Viswanathan. He also treats patients for non-cancer and general urology conditions, including kidney stones, vasectomy, and erectile dysfunction.

“We’re able to take care of a lot of patients who would either have to wait a long time to see a provider or travel far to see one,” says Dr. Viswanathan. “It’s an important service for people in our rural community, who have limited access to travel and limited time away from work and home.

“I consider being able to serve this community, to spread MUSC objectives and ideals in places like this outside of the bigger urban areas, as important work. Though we’re rural, I present my patients in MUSC grand rounds weekly to providers, multiple experts, and specialties so that we all continue to reap the advantages of a big hospital.”

The entire surgical team at Lancaster is MUSC-trained. “We practice similarly and are up to date on all techniques and surgical and recovery recommendations,” says Dr. Viswanathan, proudly noting that the Lancaster Medical Center performing complex surgeries that some tertiary centers can’t do, including renal auto transplants.

“We’ve got a great support system here, the highest caliber surgeons with expert skill and training. It all adds up to this — we’re able to offer the same great care that a urologist at a big tertiary facility can offer.”

Schedule an appointment with a MUSC Health - Urology - Lancaster provider here.