CAMP HUMPHREYS, Republic of Korea — "It's a win for our patients and our staff!"
Three years of dedication to activating the robotic surgical system at the Brian D. Allgood Army Community Hospital, or BDAACH, came to fruition on May 16.
General surgeons at BDAACH recently performed successful robot-assisted surgeries. With this new capability, many surgical patients can be cared for at BDAACH instead of traveling stateside or to host nation network hospitals for more complicated surgeries.
Since the hospital's relocation from U.S. Army Garrison-Yongsan and the opening of the new medical facility at Camp Humphreys in 2019, its surgical department has continued a collective effort to implement this new surgical technology. The effort did not waver, even during the pandemic.
Maj. Alexander Friedman, a general surgeon who spearheaded the project since arriving on the peninsula, shared how rewarding it was to see robotic surgeries finally validated.
"It took the team a couple of years to get the equipment required and get everything shipped to Korea," Friedman said. "It was a quite more hands-on project than I expected but that makes it more rewarding."
Friedman recalled the memories of ordering different parts of the robotics system and conducting an inventory of equipment which sometimes made the operating room staff dive into multiple packages shipped from the States.
Friedman said all that hard work was possible because the team was determined to provide an additional surgical capability that will ultimately increase options and improve patient outcomes.
"Our team had two firm goals while working to bring this enhanced technology to the facility: first and foremost, better patient experience and second, more training opportunities for the surgeons and [operating room] staff stationed in Korea," said Friedman.
Patients who undergo robot-assisted laparoscopic surgery have less blood loss, shorter hospital stays, and faster recovery thanks to the da Vinci surgical system as compared to open surgery.
In addition, the da Vinci robotic surgical system provides the surgeon with an advanced set of equipment to employ in performing robot-assisted, minimally invasive surgery. Surgeons may now offer patients more choices of laparoscopic procedures for other specialties, such as colorectal, gynecological and urologic surgeries.
The da Vinci system translates the surgeon's hand gestures at the console into real-time motion with fully wristed instruments during the procedure with a higher range of motion than standard laparoscopic instruments. The da Vinci vision system also provides a three-dimensional high-definition and magnified view of the operating area. Surgeons can use one or several instruments at a time due to the various tool size.
Nowadays, most surgeons are trained in robotic surgery during their residency programs. All general surgeons at BDAACH are certified to perform robotic surgeries. By having the da Vinci system at BDAACH, surgeons will be able to maintain and advance their skills. In turn, the operating room staff will also receive relevant and updated training in support of robotic surgery.
Friedman said the robot's arms do not necessarily make surgeries less complicated. Instead, they give surgeons an enhanced and consistent operating capability, especially during extended operations. The da Vinci system is also expected to increase the number of surgeries the OR can offer, since the system requires only one surgeon and reduces fatigue.
In preparation for the validation process, the operating room team made multiple visits to the robotics surgery training center in Seoul to ensure they were up to date and familiar with the entire processes and procedures. A surgeon proctor from a military hospital in the United States was invited to oversee the program and validate the equipment, as well as the personnel who would operate it.
Friedman said the first week of robotic surgeries went very well. He was happy that BDAACH can offer more surgeries, especially types of surgeries that were not available in the past. He also shared his excitement about the ability to take care of more patients at BDAACH.
Not every surgery will require robotic surgery; the first week consisted mostly of general surgery cases. However, the urology and OB/GYN departments are projected to utilize this equipment in the future on a case-by-case basis.
"It feels great to bring this facility up to the level of all the other medical centers in the Army," Friedman said. "Now we can offer the same level of care as other military treatment facilities in the states and the level of care you get from the civilian side as well."
Col. Huy Luu, a physician who serves as BDAACH's commander, said the da Vinci system would improve the hospital's health care delivery.
"We are so pleased to announce that BDAACH can now leverage this cutting-edge medical technology to enhance clinical operations, safety, and satisfaction for both the patients and staff," Luu said. "Our number one priority is always our patients. We will ensure the safety and quality of care for our patients while providing our staff with the most up-to-date training platforms."