July 10, 2008

St. Francis Hospital Eyes State-of-the-Art Surgical Suite

By Christina Hernandez, Newsday, Melville, N.Y.

Jul. 10--In a new 14-room surgical suite opening later this month, doctors at St. Francis Hospital will use high-definition cameras and monitors to see startlingly crisp images of pulsating muscles and diseased cells -- technology doctors hope will save time and lessen pain.

The Flower Hill hospital spent $3 million on a unique package that includes dozens of high-definition cameras and monitors linked to share images and data, snap photographs, take videos and broadcast surgeries in real time around the world.

Currently, surgeons have to study X-rays and other images related to a procedure before heading to the operating room. With the new system, St. Francis doctors will be able to pull up documents by touching one of the new monitors, even while in surgery.

"Will this save lives? Occasionally," said Dr. Alan Guerci, hospital president and chief executive. "We want to create the best possible environment for surgery."

High-definition technology for operating rooms is relatively rare, said Dr. Dennis Fowler, vice president and medical director for perioperative services at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. "It will become the standard," he said.

John Stuben, Long Island account executive for Karl Storz Endoscopy, said St. Francis is the only local hospital to use the company's fully integrated system.

The new operating rooms are part of a three-year, $190-million hospital project that includes a 40 percent increase in space, 85 additional beds and a new parking garage.

The high-definition equipment, which has only become available in the last few years, will be used for a variety of surgeries at the hospital, officials said. The monitors are similar to screens popular for home use, but the medical-grade machines can magnify images from inside body cavities, helping surgeons to see down to the millimeter.

The clarity of high-definition images makes it easier for doctors to perform minimally invasive surgeries that tend to lower the severity of postoperative pain, doctors said.

"We have to re-educate ourselves because we're seeing the anatomy so much better," said Dr. Felix Badillo, chief of urology.


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