July 22, 2008

Gundersen Surgeons Will Get Some Help From Robots

By Terry Rindfleisch, La Crosse Tribune, Wis.

Jul. 22--Gundersen Lutheran soon will be using the newest and most advanced robotic surgical assistant technology to provide the least invasive surgery for prostate and gynecological cancers.

Dr. Chris Hofland, a Gundersen Lutheran urologist, is scheduled to use the da Vinci Surgical System for a prostatectomy, or removal of a cancerous prostate gland and tissue around it, in mid-August. Franciscan Skemp has no immediate plans to purchase the $1.4 million equipment but refers patients eligible for such surgery to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., which began using the technology in 2002 and now has four sets of the equipment.

Robotic surgery will mean shorter hospital stays for patients and better results, Hofland said. The surgery also could reduce the complications of standard prostate surgery, including incontinence and impotence, he said.

Nationwide, robotic surgery is the most prevalent type of prostate surgery being done, Hofland said.

"Patients will recover faster and get back to normal activities faster, as well as we will see a decrease in blood loss, less pain, less scarring and less risk for infection," Hofland said. "This system will be the gold standard at some point for prostate surgery."

Dr. Marvin Van Every, another Gundersen Lutheran urologist, said the technology allows him to perform surgery using high-resolution 3-D images with 10 times the magnification of traditional "open" surgery and very small, 1- to 2-centimeter incisions through a laparoscope, rather than the large incision required with open surgeries.

"This is patient-driven, and time and money will be saved," Van Every said. "If I were the patient, this is the way to go."

Dr. Dana Benden, a Gundersen Lutheran obstetrician/gynecologist, said the technology initially will be used by gynecologists to perform hysterectomies and then later to treat endometrial cancer, cervical cancer and early-state ovarian cancer.

"It's an extension of laparoscopy, but now we're going from 2-D to 3-D, which is great for operating," Benden said. "Patients will have quicker recovery and go home faster with less medical cost."

Thomas Koppa, area sales manager for Intuitive Surgical, which makes the equipment, said the robotic technology is the next generation of the scalpel and gives surgeons better control, precision and dexterity.

"Surgeons can access smaller, tighter spaces with depth perception," Koppa said.

He said 650 da Vinci systems are in use in the U.S., including 19 in Wisconsin, and more than 200 worldwide.

Terry Rindfleisch can be reached at [email protected] or (608) 791-8227.


In order to use the da Vinci system, the surgeon sits at a console and grasps the master controls while viewing a 3-D image of the surgical field. The robot translates the surgeon's hand, wrist and finger movements into precise, real-time movements of the instruments positioned with robotic arms inside the patient. The robotic technology's tremor reduction, motion control and special wrist instrumentation enhances precision and control far beyond the capabilities of the human hand.


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