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Da Vinci Surgical System introduced at Lee Memorial

By Staff | Feb 15, 2010

The Lee Memorial Health System is the latest facility to employ a robotics platform to minimize invasive surgeries.
Although it sounded like something out of science fiction to the dozens of people who watched the platform in action Monday inside the atrium of HealthPark Medical Center, experts and health officials pointed out the reality of the cutting-edge technology behind the da Vinci Surgical System.
The system consists of three ports — one outfitted with a camera and the other two acting as extensions of a surgeon’s arms — with a fourth port that may be introduced as a helping arm or retractor during surgery.
Of course, the robot doesn’t conduct the surgery itself.
It is entirely controlled by the surgeon who sits only feet away guiding the sophisticated arms as he or she benefits from enhanced visualization of the internal organs, increased precision with the robotic arms and an ergonomic design.
The platform offers a three-dimensional, magnified view of what is being operating on, and its “wristed” instruments increase the surgeon’s range of motion. Those who have used older robotic models often compared the instruments to “operating with chop sticks.”
HealthPark introduced the device Monday and its first trial starts today.
“Our first trial is (Tuesday),” explained Trish Barron, a registered nurse and da Vinci specialist. “We are going to take down the internal artery.”
Taking down the artery amounts to moving an artery from the chest and bypassing it with the heart, she said.
Da Vinci was first invented primarily for prostate surgery and hysterectomies, said Barron. Now Lee Memorial Health System surgeons, Dr. Paul DiGiorgi and Dr. Brian Hummel, are training to use the system for heart surgery.
Later, doctors hope to use the robotic device to repair major heart valves and other more advanced procedures.
The $1.2 million device — purchased from donations by local residents and former open-heart patients — not only improves the surgical experience for doctors but will benefit patients by decreasing the possibility of infection and recovery time.
“It’s a lot better for the patients, the recovery time is cut in half,” said Barron.
Typical bypass patients are required to stay in the hospital for a week after their procedure, she said, yet that could be reduced to as a little as three days.
Aaron Dickens is a manager in Florida’s da Vinci team and presented the device to the community on Monday. He said there are a couple of da Vinci programs in Naples and Sarasota but this is the first in the Lee Memorial Health System.
“You are taking what is an open surgery and making it minimally invasive,” said Dickens.
A one-inch incision is made for the robot to conduct heart surgery rather than a surgeon needing to crack the patient’s sternum and make a 13-inch incision. Theoretically, it may also be used for local surgeons to operate on patients anywhere in the world.
One major emphasis of employing the da Vinci system is decreasing the chance of infection.
Hospitals spend between $30,000 and $50,000 to treat one patient who develops an infection as a result of a procedure they received within that facility, said Dickens, and most hospitals are forced to pay for the treatment. According to the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths, hospitals in the United States spend $30 billion each year on treating infections that arise during a patient’s stay.
More patients are receiving robotic surgeries each year. Since 2000, the company has installed 1,100 systems in 930 hospitals worldwide. Other doctors within the Lee Memorial Health System also plan on training to use da Vinci to improve patient care.