Advanced Robotic Surgery Program to Begin in North Dakota

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: May 26, 2010
Contact: Mary Muhlbradt
(701) 857-5116, Fax: (701) 857-5683
mary.muhlbradt@trinityhealth.org

Advanced Robotic Surgery Program to Begin in North Dakota

(MINOT, ND)—Robotic surgery is coming to western North Dakota and will be offered to patients beginning this summer. Trinity Health has become the first hospital in North Dakota to acquire the new da Vinci Si HD Surgical System, the most advanced robotic surgical technology on the market.

Designed for use across several surgical specialties, the da Vinci combines the advantages of small incisions used in laparoscopic surgery with high-definition, 3D optics and advanced robotic instrumentation that is more dexterous than a human wrist. The result is a system that gives surgeons the ability to perform precise and meticulous procedures using a minimally invasive approach.

Dr. Ryan Hedgepeth is a urologist who is joining Trinity Health’s professional staff in July and will head up the new robotic surgery program. Fellowship trained in both urologic cancer surgery and minimally invasive surgery, he has performed more than 150 procedures using the da Vinci system while at the Cleveland Clinic and the University of Michigan. “Robotic-assisted surgery is the next evolution in minimally invasive surgery,” Dr. Hedgepeth said. “The technology is quickly spreading across the country due to its technical advantages over traditional laparoscopic surgery and its ability to make more advanced procedures feasible and safe.”

He says that for certain types of surgery, robotic technology is becoming the standard of care. “We have seen a tremendous increase in the number of prostatectomies performed with the da Vinci system so that now the vast majority of men who have surgery for prostate cancer are opting to have a robotic procedure. This same trend is also currently occurring for hysterectomies.”

Trinity’s da Vinci system has three main components that work in coordinated fashion. A robotic unit with four arms sits beside the operating table. The arms – one holding a miniature camera, the others miniaturized instruments – are inserted into the surgery site through keyhole incisions. The surgeon sits at a console a few feet away, controlling the arms using hand controls and foot pedals, all the while viewing the procedure on a high-definition 3D screen with magnification 10 times that of the naked eye.
Although the system uses advanced robotics, the arms can’t make any type of independent movement or maneuver without the direct input of the surgeon. What the system does do, however, is to enhance and refine the surgeon’s movements, making it possible to perform meticulous dissections in tiny, hard to reach areas in the body.

Major benefits for patients include shorter recovery times, less pain, less blood loss, greater comfort and patient safety. Many surgeons also feel that robotic technology improves their vision and control during vital dissections that may affect functional outcomes. “After radical prostatectomy, erectile dysfunction and urinary incontinence are major concerns” says Dr. Hedgepeth. “While studies are still ongoing to investigate these outcomes after robotic surgery, many surgeons clearly believe that their nerve-sparing and related functional outcomes are better.”

Dr. Hedgepeth says Trinity will initially use the da Vinci robot for standard urological and gynecological procedures, such as prostatectomy and hysterectomy. Additionally, several more complicated urological surgeries will be performed at the hospital, including partial nephrectomy (where only the tumor in a kidney is removed, thus saving the rest of the kidney) and pyeloplasty (where blockages in the tube leading out of the kidney are reconstructed).

Trinity President and CEO John Kutch says Trinity Health thought long and hard about investing in the new technology but decided that patients deserve to have a broader range of alternatives. Said Mr. Kutch: “Today’s patients are well informed. Some are asking for this technology. By enhancing our surgical capability, we’re able to provide patients with better clinical outcomes so they can return to active, productive lives more quickly.”

He noted that Trinity Hospital is the only facility in the Dakotas equipped with the high definition optical feature of the da Vinci system.