Robotic ‘wrists’ to assist with surgeries at Trinity

STEUBENVILLE – Surgeons at Trinity Health System are days away from performing robotic-assisted surgeries they say will be less intrusive for patients and lead to shorter recovery times.

The hospital spent more than $2 million to acquire the da Vinci Surgical System, a state-of-the-art robotic platform that allows surgeons to perform complex surgeries through a minimally invasive approach.

The robotic platform consists of a computerized screen that allows surgeons to view surgical sites as a highly magnified 3-D image and a control panel through which they can operate miniature robotic “wrists” to perform surgical procedures.

“It’s a new way to perform surgery with less pain for patients, and quicker recoveries,” Dr. Sam Licata said Tuesday. “It’s less intrusive for patients.”

Trinity spokesman Keith Murdock said Licata and Dr. Patrick Macedonia championed the technology, helping to convince Trinity administrators that it was a smart investment.

“The kinds of procedures we’ll perform with the robot are the kind we do every day,” Murdock said. “The everyday surgeries we do here now we’ll be able to do with the robot. It’s really a step forward in caring for our patients.”

Initially the focus will be on gynecological and general surgeries, but eventually they’ll be doing colorectoral, thoracic, urological, and head and neck surgeries with it as well.

Trinity CEO Fred Brower said they have a dedicated robotics coordinator, and a highly trained support team has been assigned to the program, chosen by the surgeons “because of their enthusiasm, willingness to learn and commitment to making this a great patient experience.”

Each surgeon on the robotics team is tenured, and the support staff trained individually as well as with the surgeon and the da Vinci simulator.

Macedonia, a gynecologist, said surgeons must log “hours and hours” in training with the robot and complete a full-day lab, “and then the company has to certify you before you’re allowed to perform your first procedure.” Experienced robotic surgeons will be in the room when the first surgeries are performed at Trinity, and going forward da Vinci will provide support to Trinity’s staff to ensure staff remains current with the technology.

“You have to have commitments from the surgeons that they’ll go through the training and that they’ll utilize it once it’s ready,” said Licata, a general surgeon. “We’ve been training (to use it) for three months.

Macedonia said the robotic system is “less invasive and more accurate than laparoscopic surgery,” giving surgeons improved precision, dexterity and control.

“We’re still controlling all the instruments,” he said. “(But) the computer in the robot takes away any type of tremor or unsteadiness, makes it more precise and visibility is much higher, using the 3-D camera.”

And, from a patient’s perspective, recovery times will be shorter because of the minimally invasive technique. “There’s definitely improved outcomes,” he said.

Murdock said the robotic technology allows Trinity to better serve patients throughout its six-county service base, “and to do it in a way that means less recovery time and less scarring.”

“We started looking into it five or six months ago,” said JoAnne Mulrooney, vice president of clinical services. “The two surgeons, they’re the ones who were very interested in using purchasing it. You have to have the commitment of the surgeons or it doesn’t do any good.”

The first robotic-assisted surgeries are slated for March 12.