Robotic program showing benefits

Linda Comins HELP FROM ROBOTS — Dr. Gary DeGuzman of Wheeling Hospital explains the advantages of the da Vinci Surgical System during a Wednesday press conference.

WHEELING — Wheeling Hospital’s robotic-assisted surgical program is growing at an accelerated rate and benefiting patients in many ways.

Since implementing the da Vinci Surgical System two years ago, the hospital’s annual growth rate of robotic-assisted surgeries is 145 percent, officials said Wednesday.

“We are averaging 80 procedures a quarter and growing,” said Greta Stewart, business director of perioperative services. “Each quarter has been higher than the previous one.”

For instance, Stewart said 99 procedures were performed in the most recent three-month period.

Dr. Gary DeGuzman, director of minimally invasive and pelvic reconstructive and gynecological robotic surgery, said the hospital is looking to expand usage of robotic-assisted surgery.

A robot cannot replace a human in the operating room, but the use of a robotic-assisted system can enhance a surgeon’s skills.

“It’s making good surgeons even better surgeons,” DeGuzman said.

Currently, five surgeons are using the da Vinci robotic system for general to complex procedures at Wheeling Hospital. They are DeGuzman and Drs. David Ghaphery, Howard Shackelford, Steven Wiley and John Wolen.

Robotic surgery is used typically for minimally invasive surgeries — procedures performed through tiny incisions — but can be used for certain traditional open surgical procedures.

For patients, robotic-assisted methods offer several benefits, DeGuzman said. They include shorter hospital stays; less pain, which means less use of narcotics; decreased risk of surgical site infections; decreased risk of conversion to open procedures, which require larger incisions; minimal blood loss, which means fewer transfusions; smaller, less noticeable scarring; reduced need for re-admission to the hospital and faster return to daily activities.

For surgeons, a robotic-assisted system provides better ergonomics, improved wrist motion and enhanced suturing capabilities. It also allows for more precise movement and minimizes the difficulty of operating on obese abdominal walls, he said.

Surgeons have advanced, computerized laparoscopic tools in this system.

“All of the tools are equipped with multiple safety procedures to protect the patient,” he said.

In the da Vinci set-up, a camera arm and mechanical arms, with attached surgical instruments, are situated at the operating table. A surgeon controls the robotic arms from a nearby console.

The console offers a three-dimensional, high-definition, magnified view of the surgical site.

“The articulation on this device is excellent,” he said.

DeGuzman, an obstetrician and gynecologist, is using robotic-assisted surgery for hysterectomies and to treat conditions such as pelvic organ prolapse, benign and malignant diseases, endometriosis and pelvic adhesive disease.

Citing advantages of the robotic system, DeGuzman said he was able to perform a recent procedure “that I never thought I’d be able to do laparoscopically.”

As general and trauma surgeons, Ghaphery and Wolen use the robotic system for a wide range of procedures, including those for gall bladder; colon resection; hernias; spleen; and pancreatic issues.

Shackelford, a general, cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon, uses da Vinci for laparoscopic colectomies and for hernias.

Wiley, a colorectal surgeon, performs robotic surgery for colon resection, benign and malignant cancer, diverticular diseases, rectal prolapse, colostomy reverse and colorectal cancer.

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