Children's Hospital of Michigan promotes paediatric robot surgery programme with Zeus-assisted intervention on teenager

Detroit 04 March 2002On January 17, 2002, doctors at Children's Hospital of Michigan have performed the first successful advanced computer-assisted robot-enhanced surgical procedure at a children's hospital in the United States. Working in partnership with Computer Motion Inc. of Santa Barbara, California, and the College of Engineering at Wayne State University, Children's doctors and researchers have helped to develop the first application for surgical robots uniquely designed for minimally invasive operations on paediatric patients.


Children's is the first children's hospital in the country to operate on a child using the Zeus Robotic Surgical System. Equipped with a headset, visual screen, and hand controls, Zeus senses the surgeon's hand movements and scales them into precise micro-movements while filtering out hand tremour. For ultimate precision, a two-inch movement of the controls is translated to a two-millimeter movement of the instruments inside the patient's body, reducing injury and trauma.

Advanced modifications made to Zeus include greater magnification of the operative site and the addition of Micro-Wrist instruments for enhanced range of motion. Researchers are pioneering a whole new class of delicate procedures that were previously thought impossible, from complex brain, chest, and abdominal operations to foetal surgery. To transform these cutting edge procedures into everyday realities, Children's is working closely with the FDA to secure approval for a broader range of child-specific robot enhanced applications.

Dr. Scott Langenburg, director of the Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation Computer-Assisted Robot-Enhanced Surgery Programme at Children's Hospital of Michigan, performed the procedure from a console across the operating room from the patient. Dr. Michael Klein, Children's surgeon-in-chief assisted in the procedure at the operating table. The operation, a Nissen Fundoplication, surgically corrected gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), which causes painful heartburn and can cause serious damage to the esophagus including cancer.

By wrapping the stomach around the esophagus, a new muscle valve is created and stops the reflux. Normally, this procedure is done laparoscopically, but with the new robotic technology, surgeons benefit from increased dexterity, elimination of tremour, and improved visualisation. The patient, 17-year-old Kyle Bugdalski, has recovered and is doing well.

Children's is also the premier international teaching centre for paediatric robotic surgery. This new Educational Institute combines years of surgical expertise with the latest in hands-on robotic techniques. Already, surgeons from overseas have visited the hospital for instruction in the use of this new technology.

Children's Hospital of Michigan and its supporters are leading the medical community, where children will heal faster, in greater comfort. "As we continue to research and apply new equipment and techniques, computer-assisted robot-enhanced surgery will turn science fiction into science fact by helping children everywhere overcome disease with less pain and shorter hospital stays", stated Dr. Langenburg.

The Maxine and Stuart Frankel Foundation Computer-Assisted Robot-Enhanced Surgery Programme was made possible by a generous $5 million commitment from Bloomfield Township philanthropists Maxine and Stuart Frankel. Two million dollars of their gift is offered in the form of a dollar-for-dollar matching gift challenge. With matching gift contributions from the community, the Frankels' $3 million donation will raise a total of $5 million for computer-assisted robot-enhanced surgery, research and education dedicated to helping children.

In addition to robotic surgery, Maxine, a long-standing trustee and co-chair of the Medical Affairs Committee, and Stuart, a real estate developer, have supported several different areas of technology within Children's Hospital of Michigan, including the Positron Emission Tomography (PET) Center and the Imaging Department.

For more news on robotic surgery applied to a 19-day-old infant at a University Hospital in Louisiana, you can read the VMW February 2002 article Zeus robot used in delicate procedure to deblock baby stomach.

Leslie Versweyveld

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