SIOUX CITY | Since St. Luke's Regional Medical Center acquired the da Vinci Si Surgical System last fall, Steve Church, director of surgery for the hospital, said the robot is in high demand among surgeons and patients alike.
He said that on average, 20 to 30 surgeries per month are performed at the hospital with the newest model of the robotic surgical system. Hysterectomies, gallbladder and hernia surgeries are procedures that are currently being performed robotically at St. Luke's.
Depending on the complexity of the operation, Church said surgeons are recommending robotic surgery to patients in some instances. Patients, he said, are also requesting it.
Church said 10 surgeons are performing procedures with the da Vinci Surgical System at St. Luke's. A couple others are in training.
"It's not necessarily a faster surgery," he said. "The healing is better. It's less painful, less bleeding, and there's less of a hospital stay."
St. Luke's announced its purchase of the million-dollar machine at a news conference in October.
Surgeons learning to operate the da Vinci Surgical System said performing robotic surgery is easier than performing traditional laparoscopic surgery because the robot allows them to turn corners and dissect in ways that they otherwise couldn't.
The surgeon sits at a console a few feet away from the operating table. Through a stereo view finder, the surgeon sees a 3-D image of the surgical field. Controllers in front of the surgeon move robotic arms and hand-like instruments that mimic his or her hand motions.
A monitor projects the surgeon's manipulation of the patient's organs in real time for the entire operating room to see.
"It's 10 times magnified, but it's in 3-D, so it gives the surgeon their perception back," Church said of the da Vinci Si. "Every movement that they make here transfers over to the patient, and it's in real time."
The da Vinci Surgical System puts a variety of instruments with a range of motion greater than that of the human wrist at a surgeon's disposal.
The Endo-Wrist can rotate 360 degrees, giving surgeons the capability to insert instruments at a variety of angles.
Specialized instruments allow surgeons to perform tasks such as vessel clipping and cryoablation, using extreme cold to destroy or damage tissue.
Since the da Vinci Surgical System's debut, Church said the hospital has obtained a tissue sealer attachment that cauterizes vessels.
St. Luke’s has expressed interest in obtaining single-site technology upgrades for its robots, which would make it possible to perform a gallbladder surgery through a single incision in the belly button.
"(Surgeons) are able to perform a single incision, or what some people are calling a 'scarless' procedure," Church said. "The incision is still there, but it's hidden in the belly button. Cosmetically it looks great."