News Column

Robots take control at annual Pink Bag Lunch

May 14, 2014

By Nicole Luna, Cleburne Times-Review, Texas

May 14--Robots are no longer talk of science fiction for people in Cleburne.

Three surgeons on the Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Cleburne medical staff have performed regular minimally invasive procedures with the da Vinci robotic surgical system since September. The surgeons, Dr. Naomi Harman, Dr. Nabil Aboukhair and Dr. Kari Frano, were the guest speakers at the annual Pink Bag Lunch & Women's Health Forum sponsored by THC, the Black & White Gala and Friends of Texas Health Cleburne on Tuesday.

Before the speakers, guests were introduced to the robotic system the surgeons use. Intuitive Surgical, manufacturer of the robotic surgical system, brought the system and allowed guests to use the machine.

"We present these pretty regularly," Clinical Salesman Chase Rawls said. "Most people don't get to see what it's like for surgeons to operate, so this is great."

Guests sat down and put their head inside the da Vinci console, viewing a highly magnified 3D image of the body's interior. The guests used master controls that work like forceps to place ringlets onto small cones.

Area Salesman Talton Russel said the robotic system allows surgeons to manipulate the controls, respond in real time, and perform precise movements of miniaturized instruments at the patient-side cart that is a part from the console.

The surgeons at Texas Health Cleburne through hours of training to be certified to use the robotic system, Harman said. She said using the system has been easier for her as a doctor and her patients.

"It's less physically demanding, about the same as laparoscopy, if not less, in recovery time for the patients and the system has allowed us to take on more difficult cases," said Harman, whose specialty is gynecology.

She said since she and the other surgeons have used the robotic system, patients have been receptive and open minded to using it. However, she said there are some patients concerned about the new technology.

"None of the surgeons push or force this technology on the patients," she said. "Knowledge empowers people and without knowledge there is fear. With giving more knowledge on the system we can alleviate those concerns patients may have."

The advantages of using robotics for surgeons, Harman told the group of women present, are that it is an extension to the laparoscopy procedure in which surgeons make smaller incisions to operate. Robotics increases dexterity, gives full-wristed articulation, restores hand-eye coordination and improves visualization. They are able to take on more difficult cases.

Aboukhair, whose specialty is gynecology, spoke on the public misconceptions of using the system such as longer time to perform surgeries and costs.

"The media has said using the systems has been costing the patient more but that's not true," he said. "[Texas Health Resources] has provided this system to the hospital with no charge to patients; we can't do that."

He also explained that the media has said simple procedures take about two to four hours to complete. He negates that information and said those specific procedures should take about 30-45 minutes.

"The risks associated with robotics are no more than those of using laparoscopy, if not less," Aboubhair said. "It makes my job easier and the recovery time is amazing. We use to have to send patients to Fort Worth in order to receive the robotic procedure. We haven't done that in the last year."

Frano also discussed the benefits of the robotics in general surgery. She used gallbladder disease as an example to help the guests understand.

THC is only using the robotic system in procedures in gynecology and general surgery right now.

Sheryl Ross, who is new to Cleburne, said she was impressed that Cleburne would have a robotic surgical system.

"Look, surgery is surgery, there are going to be reservations, but with that said we have seen in other areas how technology has maximize human endeavor," Ross said. "The idea that a robot could reach areas that a human hand isn't able to do is a telling statement on where technology is taking us. It's almost like Sci-Fi and we're living to see it."


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Source: Cleburne Times-Review (TX)

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