Robotic surgery offers new horizons at MacNeal Hospital
The new da Vinci Si robotic surgery system not only represents a major technological advance for Vanguard MacNeal Hospital, it’s also a chance to give Berwyn-area patients less-invasive surgeries with better outcomes — and ultimately save lives.
Thanks to the local equipment upgrade, surgeries that once required a gaping abdominal wound now leave a handful of dime-sized puncture marks. And while kidney tumors had previously involved the removal of the entire kidney, minimally invasive robotic surgery allows doctors to remove the tumors while leaving the rest of the kidney in place.
These nearly superhuman surgical feats are accomplished by making the surgeon’s job easier and more comfortable. Rather than standing over the patient, a surgeon can sit down.
Tremors and muscle fatigue are eliminated through the electrical system and by reducing resistance. High-end cameras with extra zoom also give an even better picture of what surgeons are working on than conventional surgery.
“Because of the (high-definition) 3D vision, you’re peering into exactly what you would see if you were operating open (surgery),” said Dr. Balakrishna Sundar, a urological surgeon at MacNeal Hospital.
“It’s a much more precise surgery with much less strain on your back and your eyes.”
Additionally, the robotic system has four arms and a camera, giving the surgeon more limbs with which to treat the patient.
MacNeal unveiled its first da Vinci system earlier this month during an open house, allowing residents to get behind the controls of the system and see just how easy it can be to make incredibly precise maneuvers with minimal effort. MacNeal’s da Vinci Si system was released in April 2009 and has a price tag approaching $2 million.
For now, the system only is used on urology and gynecology patients, but cardiothoracic and general surgeries will be added as more surgeons are trained on the equipment, said MacNeal CEO Scott Steiner.
“It’s a pretty significant investment from a dollars standpoint, but it’s really more of an investment in patient care,” Steiner said. “It’s driven by the patient. It’s driven by evidence-based medicine. This was a clear choice for great patient care.”
Still, not every patient will opt for robotic surgery, and not every surgeon will chose the potential upgrades of robotic surgery, instead choosing to rely on their hands.
For Sundar, giving up his human hands for those of a robot was an arduous process. He began working in robotic surgery several years ago while at a different hospital, and is now one of MacNeal’s most experienced robotic surgeons.
“It was painful. It was tough. It was soul-searching,” he said of the learning curve. “But the last four or five years, I’ve found embracing this change has improved everything for my patients.”
Not only is the surgery system easier on surgeons, it’s easier on patients.
“For prostate surgery patients, there’s about a 95 percent chance you’ll go home tomorrow, and you’ll be catheterized for as little as seven days,” Sundar added.
With smaller incisions and more precise controls, Sundar said urology patients experience less blood loss, a decreased chance of long-term incontinence and a better chance of maintaining erectile function.
While the system’s most impressive advances are in the urological field, it’s actually more commonly used in gynecology. So far, MacNeal has performed roughly seven urological surgeries and 19 gynecological surgeries with the da Vinci system.
“Hands down, patients prefer it. They can go home if not the same day, within 12 hours of finishing the surgery,” said Dr. Charles Adamczyk, a gynecologist at MacNeal. “Patients are back to work within a week to 10 days. And their pain needs are significantly reduced.”
The system also decreases readmission rates, along with the chance of post-surgical complications and infections.
Local hospital officials have high hopes the da Vinci system will become even more beneficial as time goes on.
“It’s going to be fantastic for patients who are looking for this kind of service,” Steiner said.
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