Ready for robotics - Tucson Local Media: Health

Ready for robotics

Technology helps lessen recovery time, blood loss

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Posted: Wednesday, June 8, 2011 3:00 am

Two robots purchased by Northwest Medical Center have doctors and staff excited about what it they mean for women’s health, and audience members amazed with the technology.

Robotic surgery is nothing new at the center, with procedures being conducted with one machine since 2006. A second robot was added this year.

From removing tumors near ovaries to performing an all-out hysterectomy, the technology, referred to as the Da Vinci Surgical System, means less blood loss for the patient, less pain and scarring, shorter hospital stays and a faster recovery time.

In a May 23 presentation, Dr. Hank V. Hallum of Arizona Oncology presented a graphic slide show to an audience of about 50 people describing how having robots perform various procedures is helpful to the patients.

Hallum said Northwest Medical Center is continually increasing the number of robotic surgeries performed each year.

The robotic surgeons are being used for prostatectomies, kidney surgeries, pelvic prolepses, hysterectomies and salpingo-oophorectomies.

“These instruments have wrists, which gives you a lot of dexterity,” said Hallum. “The robots have no tremors, no shaking, and it makes the entire procedure go very smoothly.”

After Hallum’s presentation, audience members were allowed to use the robot surgeons to experience how easy a major surgery is for a trained physician.

The machine sits a few feet away from the surgeon, whose head remains fixed inside the camera where 3D, real-time imaging allows a doctor to have increased vision and feel like they are right there performing the procedure.

Guests were tasked with moving colored rings from one area to another, showing how easy the three-handed machine is to operate.

With the word “amazing” being thrown around a lot, one guest after another filed in line to get a view of the technology that is being used to improve patient care.

After using the equipment, Tucson resident Barry Austin said, “It is just fantastic. I think I’m ready to do surgeries now. Just listening to the statistics of how safe this is and the reduction of all the negatives is just amazing.”

Chan Vandernakker, a local medical technician, said she is impressed with the machine’s capabilities.

Hallum often referred to a hysterectomy throughout his presentation, noting that the use of robot surgeons shortens a woman’s hospital stay and, more importantly, dramatically decreases the blood loss factor to as low as five tablespoons.

The Da Vinci system was created by the U.S. Department of Defense to allow doctors and surgeons based in America to perform critical procedures on wounded soldiers serving overseas.

“Here, you have the surgeon right there in the room,” Hallum said.

With uterine cancer ranking only second to breast cancer in women, Hallum said, the Da Vinci system allows the surgeon to easily go inside and remove the bridge where cancer spreads to the lymph nodes.

“At (Northwest Medical Center), doctors get it, and the doctors like it,” said Hallum, referring to the number of physicians wanting to train to use the machines. “It is more than sales; it is about doing what’s good for the patients.”

To specialize in robotic surgery, doctors have to go through specialized training. They start by using the machines to operate on a pig. After mastering the procedure on a pig, they move on to monitored procedures on humans to see if they are capable of successfully operating the equipment unsupervised.

“For some it could take 20 procedures to master the equipment, for others 50 and for some it may take 100 or more,” Hallum said.

The May 23 presentation was part of the Northwest Medical Center’s Healthy Woman program. Launched in 2008, the program offers free classes presented by physicians or health care professionals each month to educate women on important health and wellness topics.

The next class will be held Monday, June 27 at 6:30 p.m. This month’s topic has yet to be announced.

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