March 3rd, 2009

Nightmare Night Applejack


Today in the atrium at the hospital, there was a demonstration of the new da Vinci surgical robot.
Community invited to hands-on demonstration of robotic surgery
Tuesday, March 3, 4 to 7 p.m., Mercy atrium

Hosted by Dr. James Magera, urologist.
Dr. Magera received training at Mayo Clinic in robotic surgical techniques and is currently performing this minimally invasive robotic prostatectomy which is quickly becoming the preferred treatment for the removal of the prostate following early diagnosis of prostate cancer.
I kind of wish I had an "I'm blogging this" T-shirt because, wow, it's more blogworthy than a lot of stuff.

They'd set this up with Dr. Magera explaining some things about the system, and there were silicone knobby things in trays on the platform in lieu of a real patient. He demonstrated how agile it is by actually suturing some of the knobbies together. He even showed how strong the pincers were by grabbing to proximal points on the thread and breaking it cleanly.

The public was encouraged to give it a go, and I tried it. It was so instinctive! I put my thumbs and forefingers into these little straps so they were opposed like the pincers on the instrument (which were like the tips of tiny needle-nose pliers), and wrap the other three fingers around a post. These are on moveable arms that translate my hand, wrist, and finger motions into motions of the little robotic arms and pincers. There's a stereoscopic HD display that I put my eyes up to so I get to see the surgical field right up close. The doctor had put a dime in the field and within seconds, I was picking it up and flipping it over like the itsy-bitsy spider. I could grasp the suture needles in the field and put them almost expertly through the knobbies, although there wasn't enough suture thread left to do an actual stitch.

I was gushing about it to a coworker, but she didn't seem very impressed by the fact THAT WE ARE LIVING IN THE FUTURE! It might not be a flying car, but this gem helps to reduce surgical bleeding, recovery time, infection rates, scarring, and pain for many procedures, and although it is a bit more expensive than open surgery, recovery time and complications are so reduced that on average it ends up being about the same overall cost for the operation and stay. I was far more impressed than I thought I could be. This was an awesome experience. If you get the chance to go to such a demo in the future, take it.