On The Cutting Edge

Published 7:00 pm Tuesday, January 3, 2012

You might mistake it for a science fictionmovie scene: the patient on the table, robotic arms busy at workperforming surgery, a doctor nowhere in sight.

    But it’s not science fiction. With the recent addition of the daVinci surgical robot, it’s an operating room at King’s DaughtersMedical Center.

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    But the doctors haven’t been replaced yet. They’re still there,using a remote station to control the da Vinci’s motion.

    “It’s cutting edge technology right here in Brookhaven,” said KDMCpublic relations representative David Culpepper.

    Culpepper said he is pleased by the increasing services thehospital can offer its local patients and that the new technologytranslates into real benefits for patients.

    “It reduces downtime, gets you back into life quicker,” Culpeppersaid.

    Right now, KDMC uses the da Vinci for gynecological surgery, thoughthe da Vinci can also be used for some general surgery andurological surgeries, said Chief Nursing Officer Cheri Walker.

    Walker foresees KDMC expanding its uses of the surgical robot inthe future.

    “It’s something that will grow slowly,” Walker said. “You have tohave the right patient.”

    Surgery with the da Vinci is much less invasive than traditionalsurgery, because the surgical tools on the robot are the “width ofa pencil,” Walker said.

      With a hysterectomy performed by ada Vinci, several very small incisions are used as opposed to asingle, wide incision across the abdomen.

    Walker said there is far less pain and loss of blood with a daVinci hysterectomy.

    This becomes significant during recovery. Walker said the aftermathbecomes much easier with a da Vinci hysterectomy, with recoverytime dropping from eight to 12 weeks to about two weeks.

    “Any time the recovery time is less, there is less chance forcomplication,” Walker said.

    These patient benefits are the primary reason for KDMC to have therobot.

    “The real purpose behind it is the patient’s satisfaction,” Walkersaid.

    The patients don’t reap all the benefits, however. Walker said inher conversations with doctors, some have mentioned that surgerywith the da Vinci is easier on the doctor’s back since the doctorremains seated.

    “You’re not pulling, tugging, bending,” Walker said.

    The doctor sits at a remote viewing station and controls the robotsmotions.

    “The view screen on the remote station looks like you’re there,”Walker said.

    KDMC has been working on training its doctors since the robotarrived several months ago.

    Two of four gynecological doctors at KDMC have been trained. Theother two will be trained by end of January.

    Doctors and nursing staff have been sent for training to Houstonand California.

    “It’s a different kind of hand-eye coordination,” Walker said ofthe remote station controls.

    Regardless of specialty, KDMC’s doctors have shown interest in theda Vinci.

    “I think most of our surgeons went and looked at it when theybrought the prototype in,” Walker said.