Robot hands help out at Salt Lake hospital

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    By Stacey Reed

    The Salt Lake Regional Medical Center will be the first in Utah to receive a helping hand from a surgical robot, known as the da Vinci surgical system – a revolutionized method of performing surgery that causes less pain and expedites recovery time.

    The center received the system in December and will be implementing it through the beginning of February.

    The Da Vinci system, created by Intuitive Surgical in Sunnyvale, Calif., was first thought of in 1995 and approved by the Food and Drug Administration in July of 2000.

    “The da Vinci, which operates in 90 different hospitals in the United States and over 130 worldwide medical centers, benefits patients with less trauma, fewer blood clots, smaller incisions and faster recovery,” said Sara Norton of investor relations at Intuitive Surgical.

    The FDA has approved certain procedures for the machine such as prostate removals, gastric bypasses and chest surgeries excluding cardiac, Norton said.

    The device is a tall machine with three arms that have two hands holding instruments and the other holding a microscope-like camera.

    Unlike conventional surgery, the da Vinci is a system that allows a surgeon to control the surgical procedure while sitting in a console in the corner or in another room looking at a 3-D image of the area.

    Once the instruments are in position, the surgeon holds instrument manipulators that respond to the surgeon”s finger and thumb movements, making incisions in parts of the body.

    One of the big advantages with this system is the size of the incisions, Norton said. Most are huge, especially for complicated procedures, but with the da Vinci, the incisions are extremely small.

    “The da Vinci gives the surgeons a sense of touch and simulates a surgical field,” Norton said.

    Fran Byrne, director of Peri-Operative Services at Salt Lake Regional, said procedures like heart surgeries are usually extremely painful, requiring six to eight weeks of recovery, but the da Vinci allows patients to return to full active life much sooner.

    “The real advantages to having this machine is that certain procedures are done with small incisions, less pain, less risk of infection and less recovery time,” Byrne said.

    In addition to patient benefits, the da Vinci profits surgeons.

    Byrne said surgeons have better visualization with 3-D images, more movement with the robot”s three 360-degree elbows and more control with precise incisions.

    Salt Lake Regional is sending three teams of surgeons to a da Vinci training session in the next few months, Byrne said.

    However, Byrne said although the new technology is very exciting, people cannot ignore the financial downside to the da Vinci.

    “The da Vinci instruments are extremely expensive so cost must be added to the procedure, which in return will drive up the cost of health care,” Byrne said.

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