Robotic surgery is not new at Mercy Hospital.
But now the less invasive surgery procedure at the hospital has the benefit of the latest state-of-the-art da Vinci Surgical System, which was installed earlier this year.
According to Carol Hiltner, a registered nurse and coordinator of the robotic surgery center, more than 1,000 surgery procedures have been performed at Mercy since robotic surgery was introduced at the hospital in 2007.
In fact, more than 400 operations have been completed by this method this year, Hiltner said.
According to information provided by the hospital, surgeons use the less invasive robotic technique to perform complex operations that were impossible before without invasive surgery.
Robotic-assisted surgery at Mercy is used to treat a myriad of problems with a few tiny incisions.
These include procedures involving the prostate, kidneys, bladder, uterus, heart and lungs.
Robotic surgery has many potential benefits, including shorter hospital stays and a quicker return to daily activities, including work, Hiltner said.
Doctors using the robotic surgery have to go through a training program and also have the benefit of a robotic simulator at the hospital to continue to practice using the equipment, she said.
Through the da Vinci Surgical System, the surgeon sits at a console near the patient, using hand and foot pedals to control four robotic arms that hold micro-instruments and a miniature camera.
The special 3D camera projects a color image to the console, giving the doctor a view on the screen that is magnified 10 times.
According to Hiltner, the robot acts as an extension of the surgeon’s eyes and hands and the flexibility that goes with that.
The tips of the robotic arms rotate like the human wrist allowing surgeons to use many of the techniques they learned for open surgery.
But the robot does not act without the surgeon, who initiates and controls every movement.
Not only does the da Vinci Surgical System give the doctor more flexibility, there is more precision and greater reacher while operating through tiny incisions.
“More and more patients are taking advantage of robotic surgery,” Hiltner said.
Kay Hinnenkamp, Hiltner’s sister, is one of them.
Needing a hysterectomy, Hinnenkamp went to a doctor who planned to perform the much more invasive traditional surgery, she said.
But after learning about the robotic surgery and its less invasive technique for procedures like hysterectomy from her sister, Hinnenkamp got a second opinion.
And the second doctor recommended the robotic surgery at Mercy, according to Hinnenkamp.
She is glad the doctor did, Hinnenkamp said.
Not only was the surgery a lot less invasive, only a small, two-inch incision was made, not a large one, but Hinnenkamp only spent one night in the hospital and was back at work within a week, she said.
“I went back to work with no restrictions,” Hinnenkamp said.
If she had had the traditional procedure, Hinnenkamp believes she would have had a six-week recovery period, she said.
That’s because the surgeon found that her uterus was as large as if she had been four months’ pregnant, Hinnenkamp said.
Dr. Laura Mayer, OB/GYN surgeon from Riverway Clinic, performed the hysterectomy on Hinnenkamp.
“It was rather large, the biggest that I have run across,” Mayer said of Hinnenkamp’s uterus.
And the 3D camera that projects the magnified color image from which the surgeon works enables the doctor to see so much more, she said.
Using robotic surgery for procedures like hysterectomies have become much more common, according to Mayer.
According to Elaine Smith, Mercy Hospital marketing and communications, robotic surgery with its less invasive medication means less pain and pain medication for the patient.
In addition, there are fewer side effects and complications, reduced risk for infection and less blood loss and fewer transfusions, Smith said.
But not all procedures lend themselves to robotic surgery, so people should consult their doctor beforehand, she said.
The robot does not have a name, according to Hiltner.
“Not at this time,” Hiltner said.
Peter Bodley is at [email protected]