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Less Pain and Quicker Recovery Put Entertainer
“Back on the Road” Within Two Weeks

NEWARK -- In his 42 years as a gospel singer, Larry McCowin has shared the stage with some of the legends in gospel music - the Mighty Clouds of Joy, Evangelist Shirley Caesar and Slim and the Supreme Angels, to name a few. He still travels the country with Lil’ Willie and the Keynotes, formerly known as the Gospel Keynotes, a popular gospel group whose music has earned a Grammy, three Stellar Awards, a Dove Award and many other accolades.

At age 59, McCowin, a proud grandfather of 13, has much to be thankful for. This past September, McCowin took a leap of faith and with some encouragement from his urologist Domenico Savatta, MD, of Florham Park, McCowin decided to undergo robotic-assisted surgery at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center to treat his prostate cancer. Known as the da Vinci Prostatectomy, the procedure dramatically reduces the patient’s pain, scarring, blood loss and recovery and is fast becoming an alternative to the traditional open operation for prostate cancer.

The da Vinci Surgical System, developed by Intuitive Surgical, is far less invasive. With “open” prostate surgery, patients have an 8 inch incision and are required to stay two to four days in the hospital with four to sixweeks recovery time at home. Men who undergo the robotic procedure return home the following morning without narcotic pain medicine and are back at work within one to two weeks. Blood loss during the procedure is so minimal that patientsare no longer asked to donate their own blood pre-operatively, as patients undergoing the open operation are asked to do.

“Actually, Mr. McCowin was not an ideal candidate to have the robotic procedure,”said Dr. Savatta. “His weight and prior bladder surgery made the procedure very complex. At 280 pounds, he is one of the heaviest patients ever at Newark Beth Israel to have the procedure. His prior bladder surgery made the prostate very difficult to find, and some surgeons would have found the case too risky.

“With each case we have done, we have learned how to modify our approach for obese patients and gained experience in handling a number of complex robotic prostatectomies. We believed that the procedure could work for Mr. McCowin and it did.” McCowin’s operation took approximately four hours with no complications.

“I saw my wife Sheila, right after the surgery. At that very moment, I felt fine. I knew that I was going to be okay”said McCowin. “A day after the operation, I was able to go home. After the catheter was removed, I was back on the road with the group.”

The FDA-approved da Vinci Surgical System gives surgeons the control, range of motion and 3-D visualization that is characteristic of open surgery. Robotic-assisted surgery incorporates techniques that allow the surgeon to operate through several small incisions about the size of a dime. The da Vinci System consists of a surgeon’s console, a patient side cart, a high performance 3-D vision system and EndoWrist articulating instruments.

In the operating room, the surgeon sits at the console with his/her hands at the master controls and their eyes on a 3-D image of the surgical field. From the patient-side cart, three robotic arms and one endoscopic camera arm precisely translate the surgeon’s movements through small incisions in the patient.

Prior to the surgery, McCowin like many other prostate patients, did not have any symptoms. He had been screened for prostate cancer in the past and was told that he should have a biopsy. Considering the current treatment options when he was diagnosed, McCowin admits that he waited almost a year before he decided to have the surgery.

“My brother had the open surgery and he was in a lot of pain afterwards,” said McCowin. “Being an entertainer, I didn’t want to be down too long and I was concerned about nerve damage.” After conversations with some of Dr. Savatta’s patients who had the procedure, McCowin was further convinced that he should go ahead with the surgery. “I’m glad that I had it.,” he added.“Now a lot of people are approaching me to find out what they need to do in order to have robotic surgery. “I am more than willing to point them in the right direction, especially if it can save someone’s life.”

McCowin shows no signs of slowing down. Lil’ Willie and the Keynotes are now on their way to Michigan and Ohio. McCowin says there’s a possibility that the group will perform in the New York metropolitan area during the holiday season.

Surgeons at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, an affiliate of the Saint Barnabas Health Care System, have been using the da Vinci Surgical System since the winter of 2003, when the medical center’s cardiothoracic surgery team began using it to perform procedures including mitral valve repair and “beating heart” coronary artery bypass graft surgery. Since then, a pediatric urologist on staff at NBIMC became the first physician in the state to use the da Vinci to perform robotic surgery on pediatric patients. Dr. Savatta performed the 1st Davinci prostatectomy in the Essex county area in 2004 and now has one of the busiest urologic robotic programs in the Northeast.


Newark Beth Israel Medical Center is a 671-bed regional referral teaching hospital with specialized programs including heart and kidney transplantation, cardiac surgery, oncology, and maternal/child health services. Children’s Hospital of New Jersey is the state’s premier hospital caring for children with specialized services to treat ill and injured children from newborn through adolescent years, including more than 30
pediatric specialties.

For more information about robotic surgery at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, call 1 800 THE BETH or visit the website at:


Editor’s Note: According to the American Cancer Society, prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in men, affecting one out of every 6 American males and killing more than 30,000 men each year. The good news is that prostate cancer is being found earlier. However, African American men still have a higher incidence of prostate cancer than white males. Recent data also indicates that obese patients have been found to have a higher incidence and more aggressive prostate cancer risk.

If you are 50 years or older, there are two types of screenings you should have annually, the PSA (prostate specific antigen) blood test, and the digital rectum examination. If you have a family history of prostate cancer, of if you are an African American male, the ACS recommends that you are screened earlier, beginning at age 45.



Source: Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
Release Date: October 2005
Contact: Yolanda Finley, Public Relations
Phone: (973) 926-7576


Updated 10/12/2006

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