George Washington University Hospital first in D.C. to use da Vinci surgical robot

Washington 28 January 2004The da Vinci Surgical System incorporates the latest advances in robotics and computer technology to provide surgeons with a sophisticated new tool in the operating room. The George Washington University Hospital is the first hospital in Washington, D.C., to have a core group of surgeons trained in the da Vinci System.

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Surgical skill is enhanced by da Vinci, whose robotic arms are inserted into four small holes about the size of a pencil. Through a tiny camera placed in the body, surgeons have a magnified 3D view of the area being operated on, which is magnified up to ten times more than what the surgeon would see with the naked eye. The surgeon "operates" from a console about ten feet away from the patient by using master controls that act as a surgeon's "hands" for the procedure. While grasping the controls, the surgeon's movements are translated into real movement by the robotic arms inside the patient, which were designed to minimize tissue damage.

By integrating robotic technology with the surgeon's skill, the da Vinci System enables surgeons to perform precise, minimally invasive surgeries in a manner never before experienced. The da Vinci Surgical System is approved for gastric bypass surgery, prostatectomy and cardiothoracic procedures.

Since it was first introduced, the da Vinci robotic Surgical System has offered surgeons many benefits over traditional open methods of surgery. The da Vinci System allows surgeons to be more precise and increases range of motion. The system makes no decisions on its own, nor can it perform any type of surgical manoeuver without the surgeon's input. The system replicates the surgeon's movements in real time.

"The master controls detect and mimic seven degrees of motion so physicians feel as if their own hands are being used", stated Dr. Richard Becker, medical director of the George Washington University Hospital. "Even the most skilled surgeon may experience slight shaking of the hands while operating, but the da Vinci System corrects any shaking in the hands of the surgeon, which makes the procedure more precise."

Jason Engel, M.D. who is trained on the da Vinci System at the George Washington University Hospital, recently performed a robotically-assisted laparoscopic pyeloplasty in which the tube leading from one of the kidneys to the bladder is cleared of blockage. During the procedure, "the robot allowed for a more minimally invasive and exact procedure while reducing the surgery time by 3 hours from the traditional method." Three weeks after the procedure, Kelly Gerrish is recovering in her home in Virginia with little discomfort from the incisions. She was able to recover from the procedure well enough to resume most normal activities within 5 to 6 days.

Patients who undergo surgery with the da Vinci System benefit from a shorter hospital stay, less pain, less risk of infection, less blood loss and transfusions, less scarring and faster recovery and return to normal daily activities. Patients are often discharged from the hospital in less than a day after the procedure with minimal discomfort.

More news on the da Vinci System is available in this VMW issue's articles:


Leslie Versweyveld

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