STATE COLLEGE - At one time, robotic surgery may have been an inconceivable gadget of the future. Today, robotic surgery is the preferred procedure among surgeons and patients alike, say representatives of Mount Nittany Health System, which recently announced the addition of the da Vinci surgical system to its medical center.
The da Vinci surgical system provides minimally invasive, robotic surgery in conjunction with laparoscopic surgery. Although laparoscopic surgery itself has been around since the 1980s, it has some limitations as far as fine motor movement, said Dr. Howard Miller, a urologist at Mount Nittany. The da Vinci system offers surgeons a greater range of motion through small, articulated tools that can be maneuvered more accurately, he said.
During surgery, surgeons work from a da Vinci console which provides 3-D, high definition vision of the operative field. Through the same console, the surgeon is able to control a number of large arms that hold surgical instruments.
Dr. Howard Miller, urologist at Mount Nittany Health System, stands beside the da Vinci surgical system. The new system will provide minimally invasive, robotic surgery for a wide range of medical conditions.
"There are two finger loops under the console that allow the instruments to mimic my movements inside the body," Miller explained.
The instruments are switched out by an assistant at the bedside. There are also a number of foot pedals that control cautery, camera focus and movements, he said.
Da Vinci procedures are now performed routinely for a wide range of conditions in specialties including cardiac, thoracic, urologic, gynecologic, pediatric, general and transoral surgery. Aside from the novelty of new technology, the system offers vast improvements in patient comfort and recovery time, Miller said.
"Patients tend to feel better and do better (after surgery)," he said.
A report from Mount Nittany explains that minimally invasive surgeries offer less risk of infection and less blood loss. Miller said he has seen the benefits of robotic surgery first-hand, with a significant decrease in the number of blood transfusions needed after surgery.
"After open surgery, I probably transfused about one out of five patients," he said. "With robotic surgery, I've transfused one patient out of hundreds."
The dexterity of da Vinci's surgical instruments also result in less pain after surgery and shorter hospital stays.
"The vast majority of patients go home the next day," Miller said.
Since the system's introduction to Mount Nittany, da Vinci has mainly been used to treat urological and gynecological cancers. The system has been especially successful in controlling prostate cancer with a faster recovery and return to normal activities, but it continues to gain popularity in the gynecological field as well, Miller said.
Miller also said bringing the system into Mount Nittany is an exciting opportunity for the staff at the center.
"I'm hoping that it's going to improve the cancer care that is provided here," Miller said, adding that the change will make surgery a little easier for patients.
For more information about the da Vinci system, visit www.mountnittany.org or contact your physician.