By Eve Meinhardt, WAMCAugust 19, 2015
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (Aug. 19, 2015) -- The operating room at Womack Army Medical Center, or WAMC , always moves with robotic precision, but now they have the robot to back it up.
WAMC began using the da Vinci Surgical System last month for laparoscopic urology and gynecology surgeries. Two surgeons are using the system and additional surgeons are training to start performing procedures in the near future. The robot is already assisting with urology and gynecology surgeries and, once everyone is trained, will help perform general surgeries, as well.
"This is a relatively new technology initially intended for challenging surgeries in small places," said Maj. (Dr.) Patrick McDonough, chief, Urology Services, WAMC. "It's wristed, meaning that the arms have a full range of motion, and able to make precise, steady movements. It also allows you to see everything better while you're operating."
McDonough has been performing robot-assisted surgeries for the last five years and has already performed three surgeries using the new system at WAMC.
"It allows us to provide state-of-the-art surgical care both as a professional medical facility and as a training institution," he said. "We now have the ability to potentially perform any laparoscopic surgery better."
He said that studies have shown that after a robot-assisted surgery patients experience less post-operative pain, shorter stays in the hospital after surgery and less blood loss during the procedure.
During a recent urological surgery, the operating room staff worked together to get the room properly set up for the patient and the robotic assistant. The surgical technicians and nursing staff not only had to ensure all the instruments were in place and accounted for, they had to ensure the robot was prepared, too.
"Everything is set up different for each case," said Valerie Cohen, an operating room nurse and the robotic coordinator. "So, we have to readjust each time based on the procedure being performed."
When the patient was rolled in, the robot sat in the corner as everyone performed their assigned roles. They set about verifying his name, the procedure being done and prepping him for surgery. McDonough took the surgeon's usual place at the bedside and began the procedure, inserting the cameras and making small incisions for the surgical instruments.
After the incisions were made, the surgical system was moved to the bedside. The robotic arms replaced the surgeon's actual hands, holding the instruments and cameras needed to complete the surgery.
When everything was set, McDonough moved over to a console, managing the movements of the robot using controls operated with both his hands and his feet. While sitting at the console, McDonough had an enhanced view of the area he was operating on and was in complete control of all the robot's movements. The robot does not perform any tasks on its own; the entire procedure is still performed by the surgeon.
After hours in the operating room, the procedure was complete. The patient was sutured and rolled to a recovery room. The operating room staff cleaned up and headed off to a well-deserved lunch break. The robot was sterilized and rolled back into a corner. There it will quietly sit, awaiting the next procedure.