ROSWELL, Ga. — WellStar North Fulton’s surgical robot made a rare appearance outside the surgery room Aug. 29.
The device was moved to the hospital’s atrium to celebrate its 500th successful case.
Dozens of WellStar doctors and staff were on hand to provide demonstrations of the robot and explain how the technology aids surgeons.
The robot, the $1.8 million da Vinci Xi, is the latest model with the most up-to-date technology. WellStar has used da Vinci robots since they were first introduced some years ago and has had the latest model since January.
The benefits of robotic surgery over traditional methods, for both patient and surgeon, are plentiful.
“It basically comes down to vision, precision and control,” said Logan Ramage, a clinical representative for the da Vinci robot.
The robot provides a 3-D, high definition view while the surgeon is working. The surgeon sits at a station and controls small robotic hands, about the size of a thumbnail, to perform the surgery. The surgeon is in control the whole time. The robot is a tool.
“The robot doesn’t do anything without the surgeon’s input,” said Dr. Scott Miller, medical director of robotic surgery.
The ratio between how much the surgeon moves their hand and how much the robot moves its hand is 3 to 1. That ratio helps eliminate the hand’s natural tremor and allows for finer movement, Ramage said.
“We’re able to do things laparoscopically with the robotic technology added that we weren’t able to do efficiently with just our hands,” Miller said.
Miller, who has performed robotic surgery for the past 17 years, was the first in Georgia to perform a urologic robotic surgery.
He said the latest model improves ergonomics for surgeons, which helps decrease fatigue and increase precise movement.
The technology has several applications and has been growing more popular as a surgical method. Most kidney surgeries and prostate cancer removal, for example, is now done robotically, Miller said. And while robotic surgery is not the best fit in all cases, it can also be used on lungs, gallbladders, hernias and colons.
Robotic surgery has also been a boon for women’s health, said Dr. Shelley Dunson-Allen, OB/GYN physician who regularly uses the da Vinci robot.
It allows surgeons to better perform hysterectomies or pelvic floor reconstruction, for example, she said.
With robots, patient recovery, on average, also takes less time, Miller said.
The shorter recovery time is in part because of the small size of the robotic instruments, which require smaller incisions and provide gentle tissue handing with less trauma, he said.
There are some misconceptions about the robot, and it’s not uncommon for some patients to be hesitant when they hear the words “robotic surgery” for the first time, said Melody Francis, perioperative clinical coordinator.
Some people imagine robotic surgery means the robot conducts the entire surgery, she said. But the vast majority is human controlled.
And because the robot is entirely controlled by humans, the quality of the surgery largely depends on the experience of the surgeon operating the robot, Miller said.
Robotic surgery also carries little to no risk in the case of a blackout or malfunction, Miller said.
The machine is serviced regularly to replace any necessary parts, is easy to troubleshoot, and has several sensors built in to avoid malfunctions.
Like the rest of the hospital’s equipment, the da Vinci robot is hooked up to its generator in case of a blackout, Miller added.
The robot is used daily for anywhere from two to five procedures.
Since Miller started performing robotic surgeries, he said he’s seen patients’ acceptance of the method grow.
In many cases now, Miller said, people are wondering, “Why aren’t you doing this robotically?”
For more information about the da Vinci robot and robotic surgery, visit wellstar.org.