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DR. ROBOT from Overlake Hospital


By Kenneth Rush, RN, BSN, MA, MBA, CNOR, Director of Perioperative Services, Overlake Hospital Center

Once relegated to the pages of science-fiction novels, the use of robots in the operating room is becoming a more common practice.

Before you picture R2-D2 with a scalpel, the “robot” in the da Vinci system is more like a surgical assistant that is under the surgeon’s full control and direction at all times. The robot relies on the movements of the surgeon to guide its robotic arms.

The complete system consists of three main independent but interconnected elements:
  • A console equipped with two hand and two foot controls as well as a video monitor that displays a highly magnified view of the patient’s surgical site. The surgeon sits at the console, a short distance from the operating table.
  • The robot itself consists of four remotely controlled robotic arms equipped with tiny instruments that are positioned next to the patient and used to make incisions, perform the procedure and suture the wound. A small, thin tube with a tiny camera on one end, an endoscope, allows the images of the patient’s body to be displayed on the console’s video monitor in real time.
  • A second video monitor as well as all of the software that controls the system are contained in a six-foot-tall cart that also remains in the operating room. This additional screen gives the surgical team the same highly magnified field of vision as the surgeon to ensure efficient coordination in the operating room throughout the procedure.
The system’s benefits for the surgeon include a better ergonomic position that increases his or her comfort and reduces fatigue during the multi-hour procedures. In addition, the surgeon’s field of vision is magnified 10 times for greater visualization of the surgery site. The robotic arms offer a 360-degree range of motion that is unattainable with the human hand. Other benefits of the electromechanically enhanced instruments include their ability to eliminate unintended movements due to fatigue or strain. The system also provides the surgeon with some sensation to replicate a tactile experience enhanced by the three-dimensional visual cues.

One of the most significant patient benefits are smaller incisions. At one to two centimeters, or roughly dime-size, they’re minimally invasive compared with six- to 12-inch incisions often used during traditional open surgery. These smaller incisions also reduce tissue trauma and blood loss. Patients experience less pain, fewer infections, fewer transfusions and shorter hospital stays.

The da Vinci has been approved for a range of procedures, and is currently being used at Overlake to treat patients with urologic or gynecologic health concerns, such as prostatectomy and hysterectomy. There is also promise of using the system for bariatric surgeries soon.
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