Urology derived its name from the Greek word οὖρον, which means „urine“. Urology is a relatively young field of medicine. Yet, its roots go back to ancient times. As early as 1,000 B.C., Egyptians have been using so called „bladder catheters“. Even bladder stone removal was already a common procedure at the time.
However, the Greeks of classic antiquity were the first ones to really engage in the research of the urinary tract. The first illustration of the prostata was made by the physician Herophilos of Chalcedon (circa 300 B.C.). He is credited with having performed the first scientific autopsies. All this earned him the informal title „Godfather of Anatomy“.
Naturally, urology has come a long way since then. Endoscopy, laparascopy, chemo therapy, radiation therapy and robot-assisted surgery are only some of the innovations. Today, urology deals with both female and male organs of the urinary tract — such as the bladder, the urethra, the kidneys — and diseases of the reproductive organs. Urologists work interdisciplinarily with experts from related fields, such as gynecology, nephrology, neurology, oncology, and general surgery.
The Da Vinci Surgical System has been around for over 15 years now. This robot can perfrom minimally-invasive surgeries with ultra high precision beyond human capabilities. It can perform surgeries that would not be possible otherwise.
The machine’s name is a nod to Italian painter, sculpturer and polymath Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519), who has contributed significantly to the understanding of human anatomy.
Professor Becht is the chief of medicine at the Northwest Hospital in Frankfurt. He has more than 30 years of working experience and his own private practice. Becht specializes in urological diseases of both adults and children, for example, infertility, erectile dysfunction, prostate illnesses, incontinence, organ malformations, and kidney stones. We wanted to get to the bottom of things and spoke with Mr Becht.
What are the most common urological illnesses and what causes these trends?
Becht: (laughs) Common illnesses are common, and rare illnesses are rare. It is indeed the case that, for example, diseases of the kidneys are a problem as widespread as diabetes. Also, the number of men with prostate problems is increasing. This, probably, has something to do with the increased lifespans of people. The same is true for incontinence in women. Cancer of the urinary bladder and the testicles is also becoming a common phenomenon.
Retained testicles are a common disorder, which is often treated too late. We recommend starting the treatment in the first year of life. Otherwise, the boys‘ fertility can suffer as new research has shown. This is why an early urological examination of the infant is crucial!
When facing these medical conditions, people often look for a second opinion before deciding on a — potentially life-changing — treatment. For how many years have you been counseling patients on these difficult decisions?
Becht: Consultation is a mainstay of our job as physicians. A second opinion can illuminate additional aspects of a treatment method. In the age of the internet and Google, M.D., a second opinion is more important than ever, because the internet cannot offer objective, guidelines-oriented information. Every illness is different and should be treated accordingly.
Do you have patients from abroad? What are the most requested treatments?
Becht: Inquiries from foreign countries are constantly increasing. Most foreign patients come from Arabian-speaking and Russian-speaking countries. However, I also treat patients from the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and the United States.
What’s your take on telemedicine? Would you use such services yourself?
Becht: Telemedicine is well-established in our hospital. Many of our physicians are already using telemedicine to answer inquiries from patients afar. Most inquiries come from Brunei, where we work with local physicians. We can give them instructions via live broadcasts over the internet. Furthermore, we also conduct indivudal sessions with patients from Eastern Europe.
What are some of the modern treatment methods being used in your department?
Becht: All departments of the Northwest Hospital are equipped with the latest technology. Especially, the urology department can offer the latest procedures for the treatment of prostate cancer.
You also work at the teaching hospital of the Johann-Goethe-University of Frankfurt. Do you have any advice for prospective physicians? What skills are required to become a competent urologist?
Becht: Enthusiasm for the subject, dedication to the training, and obtaining comprehensive knowledge through congresses and literature are important factors. You can put it like this: „Without knowledge there is no navigation acrosse the ocean.“ However, the will to become a good physician is also crucial.
Thank you for the interview, Mr Becht.
Image credits: © Intuitive Surgical, Inc.