Marshall Medical Center is now using the Da Vinci Surgical System, a robot-assisted method of surgery that reduces blood loss, recovery time and pain. It is the next huge step in minimally invasive surgery. Though the FDA-approved technology has been around for about 10 years, until recently it has mainly been available only in large, metropolitan health systems.
According to Robert Carter, MD, a gynecological physician with Marshall OB/GYN and the first certified surgeon using Da Vinci, there are still more hospitals that don’t have it than do. “Years ago when this technology came out, I never dreamed we’d be able to bring it here, but to be able to offer this level of care to our community is remarkable and exciting,” he said. It stems from Marshall’s commitment to provide as many services as close to home as possible.
Robot-assisted surgery is especially useful in urological, gynecological and general surgery procedures, in some cases taking the place of laparoscopy. At Marshall, it is currently being used for gynecology procedures; next, general surgeon Robin Locke, MD, will be the first general surgeon certified in the technology. Offering Da Vinci surgeries also involves a whole team of professionals, from the anesthesiologists and surgical nurses to OR staff, who have been specially trained and certified in the unique procedural and equipment needs.
From a physician’s point of view, the technology impresses for two main reasons: what it enables the surgeon to accomplish and what is provides the patient in terms of recovery time – which is greatly reduced.
Dr. Carter said, “The visualization through the control console and the precise movements of the instruments are truly impressive. I can perform complex surgeries I couldn’t even have contemplated with even the most advanced laparoscopic procedures before.
The Da Vinci surgical system requires rigorous training for surgeons, and involves hours of practice using a simulator. In addition to reviewing the work of master surgeons using the equipment, surgeons seeking certification must have their first Da Vinci procedures observed for technique by a master surgeon. In Da Vinci surgery, the surgeon sits at a console that controls the robot, which is positioned above the patient. Real time, magnified 3D views of the surgical area enhance the views surgeons can see. The robot itself is equipped with incredibly precise instruments that can rotate better than a human hand and wrist.
“When I meet with patients, I reassure them of the benefits they will experience, and reinforce that I’m in control the whole time, probably more in control than ever,” Dr. Carter explained. “I try to dispel the idea that there’s some computer program controlling the robotics — not at all.”
The results of the gynecological procedures performed thus far have supported the goal that almost every Da Vinci surgery is outpatient surgery, with no hospitalization required. This is safer for patients and lets them get back to their lives more quickly.
“A recent patient was ready to walk out of the surgery center two hours after surgery, with minimal pain — of course our policy is for wheel chair assistance, but she wanted to walk on her own” Dr. Carter said. “It’s the evolution in our minimally-invasive program, and to see the benefit to the patients makes it all worthwhile. It’s also noteworthy that this type of surgery is offered at the same cost as comparable procedures, so that alleviates concerns patients may have as well.”