My husband's experience with neobladder surgery for bladder cancer
Last year we were looking for patient experiences with the neobladder surgery where a section of ileum is used to create a functional bladder while the cancerous bladder and prostate are removed. There wasn't a lot of information to be found, so I wanted to add our current experience as my husband is 4 weeks postop from this surgery at Mayo Rochester. What we have learned so far is that we did not ask beforehand about potential complications and setbacks. You go into a massive surgery like this planning for the best, which is correct, but a little more education about the potential problems would have made us more prepared. My husband spent a full week in the hospital and needed every day there. His care was exceptional from nurses and our wonderful surgical resident. There is a lot of aftercare with catheter flushing and drainage around the catheter, GI issues of getting the gut working again and finding an appetite, diarrhea and constipation. Persistent postop hiccups were a big problem for over 10 days after surgery, interrupting sleep day and night. There are treatments for this, which perhaps should have been utilized sooner. Once home, an incision blowout of drainage was followed by a flood of urine through the incision several days later, entailing a visit to local ER, where scans were done and sent to Mayo and our surgeons determined a plan to plug the leak via catheter, which worked. We are many hours away from Mayo and an emergent trip was impossible. Other options including drainage of urine direct from kidneys through body wall into an ostomy bag were discussed but we have not had to pursue this. While we had a scheduled appointment last week to have catheter removal, now we are looking at unknown weeks from now to return for a scan and catheter removal once neobladder fully heals. On the bright side, he is feeling pretty good in general, gaining strength, and able to eat normal foods 4 weeks after surgery.
I am not trying to scare anyone away from having this surgery, as it has removed a bladder with recurrent invasive cancer and offered an option for a cure. It will be worth ealing with the problems when all is said and done. We are both medical professionals, and dealing with the surprise issues was very worrisome to us. I cannot imagine how it would be to someone with no medical background. So my message is, ask the questions of your surgeon when you have the chance beforehand and have an idea of the issues you could be facing, should everything not go as planned. We are blessed to have the skills and dedication of Mayo Clinic surgeons who can offer such a unique surgery.