Womens Health

Surgery By Robot Proxy

A Tennessee hospital, Baptist Hospital West, has the distinction of being the first West Knox County hospital to get outfitted with robotic surgery equipment. The hospital has already begun to perform robotic surgeries as of January 2010. Dr. Stephanie Cross from the hospital's Women's Care Group was enthusiastic, "It's the coolest thing I've ever seen."

The robotic surgical equipment can be employed in a variety of surgeries but according to Cross, has especial qualities that make it suitable for gynecological surgeries such as ovarian cyst removal, hysterectomy, myomectomy, and in general, the various types of surgery related to endometriosis.

Happy Patients

Dr. Cross explained that the advantage from a gynecological standpoint is in performing delicate surgeries that would have otherwise required a large incision, and further states that just about any surgical situation can be tackled with the equipment. If the doctors are happy, the patients should be even happier since the patient benefits of robotic surgery are numerous: smaller incisions, reduced pain, lowered risk of infection, shorter stays in the hospital and speedier recovery time. Cross said that the equipment will make a very big difference on all scores and predicts that within a few years, no one will be seeing those big incisions of yesteryear.

In robotic surgery, robotic arms make the incisions and perform the surgeries but there is a surgeon in the operating room at all times, operating the machine through the use of remote controls. The robotic arms are maneuvered toward the patient's abdomen and the port sites are chosen based upon the patient's anatomy. The surgeon directs the arms to create small incisions after which trocars or small tubes are inserted.

"Then I dock the robotic arms to those little tubes, and once you have those docked, you insert the instruments through those sleeves. … At that point, I go over to the console, and it sort of looks like a video game," says Cross who explains that she is sitting at a console using foot pedals to control the equipment's energy sources.

Complete Control

She has complete control over the position of the camera and can mimic the same surgical motions she has always made. Meanwhile, there is a camera to provide a three dimensional view of the patient and equipment that allows the surgical instruments seven degrees of motion; giving a much wider range of motion than is afforded by even laparoscopic surgery. In laparoscopic surgery, there is the benefit of tiny incisions, but the instruments have a very limited range and the cameras can't project images in 3D.

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