LUMBERTON — Dr. John Rozier has often wished he had a third hand to assist him while performing surgery as an obstetrician and gynecologist.
Now, he has gone one better than that with the help of a new technology at Southeastern Regional Medical Center that puts four robotic, telescopic arms at his fingertips. The arms are an extension of the daVinci Si— a $750,000 addition to Southeastern Regional Medical Center’s surgical team that is designed to enable surgeons to complete complex procedures using minimally invasive techniques.
“You’re not touching the patient — you’re sitting at the console away from the patient,” Rozier said. “I mean, you could be in another room. That’s a little bit disconcerting at first, but you adjust to it pretty easily. You obviously are seeing everything that’s inside and the way it works.”
Rozier performed the daVinci Si’s inaugural surgery at SRMC, a removal of a non-malignant uterine tumor, on Tuesday while sitting about 20 feet away from the operating table. With his forehead resting on the daVinci’s console and his eyes glued to a video monitor controlled by foot pedals, the robotic arms came alive as Rozier’s hands maneuvered levers he refers to as forceps.
The mechanical appendages rotate 360 degrees and hold a variety of surgical tools; one is equipped with a camera that projects a 3-D view of the operating area.
“Those are things that really make it easier for the surgeon, easier to do complex cases,” Rozier said. “And that’s the idea, is that you will do more complex cases, cases that you couldn’t do laparoscopically. So that’s what we’re trying to bring to the area. It’s a benefit for the patient and for the surgeon as well.”
Rozier first used the daVinci on a pig during an an entire day of operating at East Carolina University. Rozier also spent four hours in a training program managed by Intutive Surgical and watched as two surgeries were performed using the device at Rex Hospital, in Raleigh.
“Surgery is surgery,” he said. “We do the same procedures — and there’s an assistant standing near the patient to hand you sutures or whatever else you may need — but most of the difference is actually just learning the new technology.”
Rozier said the advantages of the daVinci are a faster recovery time, the ability to do some surgeries laparoscopically that otherwise would be done invasively, less bleeding, and a reduced risk of complication.
The daVinci Si’s first patient at SRMC, Heather Brown, a 24-year-old student at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, was discharged from the hospital at 9:45 a.m. on Wednesday. On Thursday, two days after the surgery, she said she was planning on returning to class on Monday.
“It’s doing really good,” she said. “I’m not really in that much pain, and all I’ve been taking is Motrin. I’m feeling pretty good, just a little sore.”
Brown said she was a little nervous to be going under the knife, but the thought that she would be the daVinci Si’s first patient at SRMC didn’t faze her.
“I knew it had to be done, and I really wanted it to happen,” she said. “It really didn’t bother me that much, and it was probably better than the other way they were going to do it, because he said you would recover a lot quicker from it.”
“That’s the advantage — that you can do those cases that you otherwise may have had to make a big incision and open the patient up, and they’re in the hospital for three to four days and four to six weeks recovery,” Rozier said. “With this, they’re in the hospital overnight and are usually doing what they want to do within two to three weeks.”
According to Intuitive Surgical’s website, the daVinci system can be used in multiple treatment areas to include cardiac, colorectal, gynecological, thoracic and urological surgery. According to a hospital spokesperson, Dr. Samuel Cummings, of Women’s Life Center and Dr. Eric Velazquez, of Southeastern Surgical Center, also performed surgeries with the help of the device last week; Dr. Barry Williamson, of Lumberton Surgical Associates, has surgeries scheduled in the near future.
“It’s new, but there are certainly advantages,” Rozier said. “I think it’s state of the art and it’s really cutting edge. I think we’ll see more and more of that now … it’s an amazing technology and we’ll be using it more and more.”