LHSC announces Canadian surgical first to treat obstructive defecation syndrome


For Immediate Release

April 12, 2016


(LONDON, Ontario) – The colorectal surgery team at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) has performed the first robotic ventral rectopexy in Canada to treat a condition called obstructive defecation syndrome (ODS).

Patients with ODS have experienced a physiological change that creates an empty space beside the rectum which can shift and physically block the emptying of the bowel. If straight-forward treatments like exercise, dietary changes and laxatives fail to remedy the situation, patients are then referred for surgery which can require up to a week in hospital to recover.

However, using LHSC’s da Vinci robot, colorectal surgeon Dr. Nawar Alkhamesi and his team were able to robotically insert a mesh into the empty space so that there is no longer room for the rectum to prolapse (slip forward or down). Using this much less invasive robotic approach, patients can expect just one overnight stay in hospital.

“Patients see immediate results following this surgery,” says Dr. Alkhamesi. “The mesh will eventually be absorbed by natural fibrous tissue which then holds the rectum permanently in its normal position.”

Elaine Fisher, 45, received this robotic surgery on Oct. 30, 2015. With a family history of Crohn’s and celiac disease, her doctors originally were focused on those illnesses as causes for her symptoms which she had experienced for nine years. Eventually referred to LHSC’s Dr. Alkhamesi, Fisher was diagnosed with a rectocele – a prolapse of the rectum – that she thinks was caused by childbirth and which continued to weaken over the years. Fisher was unable to bend, cough, sneeze or laugh without fear of the rectocele emptying against her will.

Married with four children, Fisher’s family operates a beef and dairy farm and she was an active participant in her community with a variety of volunteer roles. As her symptoms progressed without a diagnosis, Fisher says she became confined to her home as she needed to be near a bathroom at all times.

“Because of the pain, cramping and discomfort, there were days when I just couldn’t even get out of bed,” recalls Fisher. “There was definitely an element of depression that came with that – with not being able to do any of the activities I wanted to do.”

Fisher says the opportunity to receive the robotic surgery was a little daunting but she was excited to avoid the traditional, more intrusive alternative. Since her surgery Fisher has been able to fully resume the everyday activities – including work on the farm – that she enjoyed before ODS symptoms overwhelmed her. Now she wants to help create awareness about this illness which many people may feel too embarrassed to seek help for.

“If you suffer from symptoms of ODS please talk to your physician and request the tests needed to identify what is causing you the discomfort. It is a very sensitive topic but there is a very successful, non-invasive surgery that can relieve you of the embarrassing symptoms. I can't thank Dr. Alkhamsei and his team enough for getting my life back,” says Fisher.

Dr. Alkhamesi echoes Fisher’s call for awareness, as symptoms in roughly 30 per cent of cases referred to him end up being caused by a cancerous growth that are most successfully treated when detected early.

About London Health Science Centre
London Health Sciences Centre has been at the forefront of medicine in Canada for 141 years and offers the broadest range of specialized clinical services in Ontario. Building on the traditions of its founding hospitals to provide compassionate care in an academic teaching setting, London Health Sciences Centre is home to Children’s Hospital, University Hospital, Victoria Hospital, the Kidney Care Centre, two family medical centres, and two research institutes – Children’s Health Research Institute and Lawson Health Research Institute. As a leader in medical discovery and health research, London Health Sciences Centre has a history of over 65 international and national firsts and attracts top clinicians and researchers from around the world. As a regional referral centre, London Health Sciences Centre cares for the most medically complex patients including critically injured adults and children in southwestern Ontario and beyond. The hospital’s nearly 15,000 staff, physicians, students and volunteers provide care for more than one million patient visits a year. For more information visit www.lhsc.on.ca


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Kelly Hutchinson
Corporate Communications and Public Relations
London Health Sciences Centre
519-685-8500, ext. 77129

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