Virginia Mason Hospital (Seattle) surgeons

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New Member

Date Joined Dec 2010
Total Posts : 10
   Posted 12/27/2010 9:21 PM (GMT -6)   
Does anyone have experience with the surgeons at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle? There are three surgeons there that perform the daVinci procedure (Corman, Kozlowski and Porter). I hear good things about the hospital and had my biopsy there but I've only talked to one person who has had surgery there (with Porter). Thanks for any information you could provide.

New Member

Date Joined Dec 2010
Total Posts : 3
   Posted 12/27/2010 10:46 PM (GMT -6)   
Hello EdwardL. I've been following this excellent forum since my journey started early in 2010. Until now I didn't take the incentive to post but your question about Virginia Mason warrants me to get off my duff and help my fellow traveler.

I've been a patient with Virginia Mason for some 20 + years. When I began my journey I thought about looking at other Seattle area choices. I spoke about my diagnosis with my primary care doctor who practices at Virginia Mason. Having had the same primary care doctor for most of these 20+ years I value his opinion. He spoke with me in length, after hours, one evening. He voiced his opinion that we are very fortunate in Seattle to have so many excellent choices be it Virginia Mason, Swedish, UW, Fred Hutch. He felt that treatment at any is about equal and some of the best in the nation.

With this being said I met with my Urologist, Christopher Porter, to further discuss my case. (this was after two biopsy appointments with him) Both my wife and I felt very comfortable with Dr Porter. He obviously knows his stuff and has performed many robotic surgeries. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend him to anyone. My treatment by him and his staff has been excellent and very caring.

My surgery was November 11th. I had a long surgery entering the ER at 7:30 and not going to recovery until after 1:30. The long surgery was due to troubles navigating my anatomy. I had the catheter in for 10 days which is his treatment norm. I've been incontinent since catheter removal and have seen no signs of life from Mr. Happy.

I'm scheduled for my next appointment early next week. He typically has your meet with his PA at that time. I'm comfortable with the knowledge that he is continuing to coordinate my treatment. He also has me meeting with the ER doc at that time to start that journey.

All in all excellent treatment. You will be in good hands. If you feel the need please contact me via email and we can communicate offline.

By the way the Dr. Porter at Swedish and Dr. Porter at V.M. are not related though I understand they know each other well.

Good Luck!
Journey in Seattle
Age 54
T2a at diagnosis Gleason 6
T2c post surgery with a Gleason 6

New Member

Date Joined Dec 2010
Total Posts : 3
   Posted 12/27/2010 10:48 PM (GMT -6)   
By the way I mentioned ER Doc in my post above. I meant to say ED doc.


Cajun Jeff
Veteran Member

Date Joined Mar 2009
Total Posts : 4119
   Posted 12/27/2010 10:58 PM (GMT -6)   
What a great post. This is what HW is all about. A brother ask a question and another borther can jump in and fill in the blanks. The site Rocks.

Cajun Jeff
9/08 PSA 5.4 referred to Urologist
9/08 Biopsy: GS 3+4=7 1 positive core in 12 1% cancer core
10/08 Nerve-Sparing open radicalSurgery Path Report Downgrade 3+3=6 GS Stage pT2c margins clea
r3 month: PSA <0.1
19th month: PSA <0.1
2 year PSA <0.1
Only issue at this time is ED but getting better

New Member

Date Joined Dec 2010
Total Posts : 10
   Posted 12/27/2010 11:16 PM (GMT -6)   
JourneyinSeattle, I forgot to say thank you for saying we could communicate offline but your email address doesn't show. I have my email set to display so you could send me an email directly. Thanks!

Regular Member

Date Joined Jan 2007
Total Posts : 165
   Posted 12/28/2010 12:29 AM (GMT -6)   
I also had Dr. Porter, and have a friend who had Dr. Corman.  I have only the highest praise for my treatment at VM and their doctors.  (My wife has other issues and frequents the VM Medical Center as well.)  Following my surgery, and the discovery of positive margins, Dr. Porter got me started with their radiation department to get the hormone and radiation treatments to insure all the bad guys down there were destroyed.  I have continued to see him periodically and am still batting 0's.  If one had other post surgical issues, they have the specialists to assist in handling them.  You can feel comfortable going to VM for your prostate cancer treatments.

New Member

Date Joined Nov 2008
Total Posts : 15
   Posted 12/28/2010 2:14 AM (GMT -6)   
I can't comment on surgery at VM but I've had 2 biopsies and several appointments with Dr. Corman in the past 2 1/2 years.  I don't really believe in fate but a series of events lead me to VM and I feel very comfortable continuing to go there. I have to travel from Ketchikan for my appointments and they have been very accomodating. If things ever go south and I need PCa treatment VM would be at the top of my list.  You might do a search on the forum for Pasayten's posts, I learned a lot from posts by him and Hawkfan.

Regular Member

Date Joined Feb 2010
Total Posts : 385
   Posted 12/28/2010 2:47 AM (GMT -6)   
I live in Seattle. VM is a good place, and I know people who had treatment there and liked it, and felt that their doctors were straightforward and conservative in their recommendations. Unfortunately, I don't know anyone who's had prostate treatment there, although it sounds like journey has been happy with his care there.

I had my surgery by Bruce Dalkin at the UW/Fred Hutch. Great guy, good outcome, never had any incontinence, ED totally correctable with pills. Chose him based on statistics he posted on his website, and some insider recommendations. He doesn't use robots.

New Member

Date Joined Dec 2010
Total Posts : 10
   Posted 12/28/2010 12:27 PM (GMT -6)   
I have an appointment with Bruce Dalkin in a couple of weeks. I'm still not convinced that the daVinci is the way to go for me---- I've read of the "open" surgeons who criticize not being able to physically touch the tissue---(maybe that is just the old-guard not wanting to move into the modern era). Plus the longer surgery time with the daVinci concerns me. I also am not sure whether Virginia Mason is the best place for me to go.

What concerns me most about Virginia Mason is that I can't get answers to basic questions from anyone. I have been through several people in the Urology Dept. trying to get some quick answers to some basic questions about how to prepare to have surgery and some other more detailed questions. I'm told I have to make an appointment with the surgeon and that he isn't available until mid-January. That surprises me since I'm scheduled for surgery with him in late January. For instance, I just read online about "Kegel" exercises----these are new to me and apparently they are really important to start doing long BEFORE one has prostate surgery. I'm starting them now and hopefully I'm doing it soon enough.

It seems they should have someone I could talk to who understands the sexual side-effects of this surgery and trains people in doing Kegel exercises before they undergo the surgery. It's great to have the Internet but talking to someone at the hospital would be better.

They gave me a 46 page booklet they prepared and keep referring me to that but it doesn't answer the specific questions I have. (That booklet does mention Kegel exercises but doesn't give instructions on how to do them and says that will happen after surgery) They also can't seem to give me statistics, other than the one doctor I've seen, on how many surgeries each of the three has performed. They say I need to make an appointment with each one to ask them directly. I'd like to know how many each has performed and the complication and success rates.

This is my first foray into the medical world as a patient and I thought hospitals would have a medically trained patient coordinator of some sort (like a nurse) who could guide a new patient through the process and is available to "hold my hand", so to speak. I'm finding that is not the case----at least not my experience with this hospital. Maybe this is typical with any hospital but I don't have the experience to know that.

Post Edited (EdwardL) : 12/28/2010 10:57:34 AM (GMT-7)

Veteran Member

Date Joined Jul 2010
Total Posts : 3892
   Posted 12/28/2010 1:43 PM (GMT -6)   
Doctors and hospitals are two different things..Most doctors are independent contractors, self-employed, who simply use the facilities that hospitals offer..They are "accredited" to provide services at hospitals where they have contracts..Their bill is separate from the hospitals..

The companies that actually OWN the hospitals are trying to change this. They want their core doctors to become company employees and work for a flat fee like other hospital employees..Insurance companies and Medicare are both promoting this change (as it can greatly reduce overall medical costs) but the traditional, independent doctors are fighting it tooth and nail. They want no arbitrary limits placed on their incomes..

This is all going on back-stage and those receiving medical care are not really aware of it..But you won't get much information about doctors from hospital employees..They simply don't know...A doctor can tell you "Yes, I've done 700 Robotic prostate surgeries with great success and minimal side-effects and complications" but you really have no way of checking that ..You have to take the man at his word...Very few doctors, surgeons especially, are willing to put together a brochure based on actual patient surveys detailing their success or failures. If they do, they tend to filter out the failures and promote the successes..If they claim to have done 700 prostate surgeries, then the outcomes for all 700 should be available to new prospective patients to review..

THAT my friends is NEVER going to happen under the currant private contractor system of providing medical care....
Age 68.
PSA at age 55: 3.5, DRE normal. Advice, "Keep an eye on it".
age 58: 4.5
" 61: 5.2
" 64: 7.5, DRE "Abnormal"
" 65: 8.5, " normal", biopsy, 12 core, negative...
" 66 9.0 "normal", 2ed biopsy, negative, BPH, Proscar
" 67 4.5 DRE "normal"
" 68 7.0 third biopsy positive, 4 out of 12, G-6,7, 9
RRP Sept 3 2010, pos margin, one pos vesicle nodes neg. Post Op PSA 0.9 SRT, HT, Dec

New Member

Date Joined Dec 2010
Total Posts : 3
   Posted 12/28/2010 8:06 PM (GMT -6)   
I'm still happy with my choice of Virginia Mason though by nature I always second guess things. Dr Porter is a believer in DaVinci, that's for sure. I have a co-worker in Portland whose doctor will only do open. One thing I can say for sure is whatever you decide to do you will be able to find validation for that position is easy to find.

With that being said I chose VM because I wanted to keep my care where I jad a patient history established. I've had stents for a heart condition on a couple of occasions and I thought it best to go to VM for treatment. They have all of my hostory. I thought about going to UW route but elected not to because it is a teaching hospital. I wanted to make sure the doctor I was seeing was who would be doing the surgery.

Our meeting with Doctor Porter did lead to a few answers.

1) Dr. Porter does have you deposit blood at the Blood Bank in case it was needed during surgery. As I recall his assistant said that they have never had to use this for any patient. This is just be extra cautious.

2) I asked Dr. Porter if he ever had to switch mid surgery from DaVinci to open surgery. As I recall this has only happened once or maybe never. I'm not clear on the answer there.

3) Dr. Porter likes DaVinci because of the ability to clearly see what he is doing. VM has a newer DaVinci machine that increases the doctors ability in this area.

As far as your concerns about getting your questions answered. Since your diagnosis have you seen Dr. Porter? He had my wife and I come in to discuss options and he gave us all of the time we needed to have concerns answered. Prior to surgery they did have me meet with a Doctor Stefanovic who handles ED and incontinence issues. Once again my wife and I both felt very comfortable with her. (She is a female). I don't know about you but it doesn't bother me to see a male or female to discuss or work on any of these issues.

I'm meeting with her and the Physicians Assistant on Tuesday and will let you know my further thoughts after that.

A couple of other things come to mind. Have you bought and read Dr Walsh's book on Prostate Cancer? Excellent book. I read it with a note pad right by me so I could write questions down as I read. I took these with me when I saw him. I also wrote other questions down as I went along my journey and used it to call the nurses and ask. When they weren't sure of the answers I did get a call from the Doc. I would say call call call to answer any questions you have. It is scary and they do want you to be comfortable in the decision process.

Another note on the treatment there. The day I had my cath out was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. As you probably recall that was our snow day. The whole staff at VM was excellent in handling this. They called the night before to tell me not to worry, that they would work me in the next day if I couldn't make it to my appointment. They also gave me a special "back number" to call before I left home on Tuesday to make sure everything was ok on my end and theirs. I really felt like they went above and beyond the call of duty especially considering that they were working on Tuesday with only six staff out of the normal 40!

Please let me know if you have any questions. I look forward to hearing from you.

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