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VOL. 132 | NO. 96 | Monday, May 15, 2017

Saint Francis Acquires New Robotic Technology

By Andy Meek

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Dr. Alan Hammond, chief of general surgery in the department of surgery at Saint Francis Hospital-Memphis, is sometimes met with puzzled reactions when he tells a patient he’s going to operate on them with the help of a robot.

Saint Francis is now using a new robotic system in surgeries called the da Vinci Xi Surgical System that enables more precision and less invasive operations.

(Image courtesy of Saint Francis)

“I tell them that, and they think I’m going to sit back and drink a cup of coffee while they’re getting operated on,” he chuckles. “Which is not the case.”

The robotic system he’s referring to – the da Vinci Xi Surgical System – is the latest technology acquisition by Saint Francis Hospital-Memphis, which is hosting an open house to show it off May 23. The hospital calls it the next frontier for minimally invasive surgery and says it further complements the technology suite the hospital already relies on.

The da Vinci system, according to the manufacturer, gets its name in part from painter and inventor Leonardo da Vinci, who in addition to his artistic pursuits was a student of human anatomy.

Initially adopted for prostatectomies and gynecology, the da Vinci Xi system has become more commonly used in general surgery in the last few years. Today, Saint Francis says the robot can be used in hernia repair, thoracic surgery and abdominal procedures including gall bladder, colorectal and several other procedures.

Greater precision and less invasiveness are driving hospitals to seek out new technology like the da Vinci, and those are also buzzwords heard in everything from general surgery to cancer therapy. According to Saint Francis CEO Dr. Audrey Gregory, the da Vinci Xi “allows surgeons to manage more complex procedures with greater precision and accuracy.”

The same is true for other technology Saint Francis has acquired, like the image-guided, high-precision radiotherapy technology called the TrueBeam Linear Accelerator the hospital got last year. The TrueBeam has built-in imaging capabilities that help doctors keep tumors and a patient’s healthy organs positioned within millimeter accuracy.

Meanwhile, the way the da Vinci system works: Hammond says the surgeon makes several small holes in the patient, into which are inserted tubes that the robot is connected to. Once it’s all attached and set up, Hammond leaves the patient’s side, “breaks scrub” and moves over to the robot console control.

“I actually control the robot arms from there while I’m looking through a viewing screen which is almost like a virtual reality headset,” said Hammond, who’s used the system for everything from colon operations to hernia repairs to anti-reflux surgery and more. “You can almost feel like you’re sitting inside someone’s abdomen and that the instruments are kind of extensions of your hands, and you’re just manipulating tissue inside the abdomen.

“It’s more precise. One big advantage of robotic instrumentation – with laparoscopic instruments, you can open and close the jaws and rotate the instruments through 360 degrees. Robotic instruments can do that, but they also have wristed motion. It gives you another degree of freedom of motion and precision.”

The benefits, of course, are obvious. More precision means less trauma to a patient in surgery, Hammond says, which means the faster they can recover. And, ultimately, the faster they can get back to their normal lives.

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