When many of us think of robots, we think of Rosie, the Jetson’s maid in the old cartoons. But did you know robots are now used in hospitals with increasing frequency?
At Via Christi Hospitals in Wichita, the da Vinci Surgical System has been used to perform more than 2,500 surgeries since the system was first brought to Wichita in 2007.
Among the procedures performed with the da Vinci are hysterectomies, colon resections, prostatectomies, surgeries of the ear, nose and throat, and urological procedures such as removal of adrenal tumors, kidney tumors and part of the kidney, repair obstructions to the kidney and reimplant ureters into bladders.
So how does it work?
Surgery isn’t performed by a “robot,” in the most popular sense, but by a surgeon seated at a console across the room from the anesthetized patient, looking at a highly magnified 3-D image. Nothing is programmable and the robot does nothing on its own, but translates the movements of the surgeon’s hands to instruments that can flex and rotate like wrists. While looking at the 3-D image of the surgical site, the physician manipulates tiny precision instruments that can finely dissect and cauterize, even delicately lift or turn organs and move blood vessels aside.
A surgery using the da Vinci robot begins with the physician making several small incisions and inserting the tubes that will carry the instruments and a high-definition camera into the surgical site. As is the practice with some types of abdominal surgery, carbon dioxide gas is used to expand the cavity to allow a better view of the work area.
Once all is ready, the 1,200-pound robot is rolled to the operating table, and the instruments and camera are attached to its arms and inserted through the tubes. When all are in place and the robot is positioned precisely, a light signals that it is “docked” and will not move until the surgery is over and the process is reversed.
Assistants at the patient’s side follow the procedure on monitors and help the surgeon by suctioning and irrigating or retracting organs, passing needles and sutures, and performing other tasks.
The specially trained assistants are able to speak to the surgeon during the operation and their monitors are interactive, if someone wants to point out something on the screen. The system also displays which instruments are in the doctor’s left hand and in the right, as well as readings and settings throughout the surgery.
Why opt for robotic surgery?
The da Vinci Surgical System has revolutionized surgery. Most patients experience:
- Less pain from small incisions
- Less blood loss
- Shorter hospital stay
- Fewer complications
- Low risk of wound infection
- Quicker recovery and return to normal activities