When Paul Cable had his first inguinal hernia surgery, it was back in the 1970s, and he still remembers the long recovery time that followed three days in the hospital. He still has a 6-inch scar to remind him of the experience.
But when the 70-year-old went in to Augusta Health in May for the same surgery on the other side, the difference was striking. He was up and walking just hours later, had very little pain and doesn’t even have an incision scar. That’s thanks in large part to Augusta Health’s investment in a cutting-edge surgical system that uses advanced technology.
That surgical system is the da Vinci Xi®, which delivers minimally invasive, robotic-assisted surgery that represents the latest and most advanced technology available. It is powered by robotic equipment that uses tiny instruments to perform small, extremely precise surgical movements. The surgeon, aided by a team of nurses, anesthesiologists and surgical technicians, operates the robotic equipment while seated at a console.
This wasn’t Cable’s first experience with the da Vinci. In May of 2016, he had da Vinci surgery as part of a clinical trial at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, where researchers were developing a diagnostic MRI technology that precisely locates cancerous tumors within the prostate gland. Cable’s brother also had prostate cancer around the same time, and opted for traditional surgery, which can have a longer recuperation time than robotic surgery.
“Because the robotic technology is so very precise, recovery is shorter,” says Cable, who is semi-retired and keeps busy running his own business, traveling with his wife and visiting their two sons. “With the hernia, the pain was lower than I expected, and I was back at work within a few days. There were no complications at all.”
Advantages for patients and surgeons
Having greater precision and accuracy means that more surgeries can be minimally invasive, points out Michael Flam, DO, a general and laparoscopic/robotic surgeon at Augusta Health.
Surgeons don’t need to make large incisions with the da Vinci; there are only small holes for the instruments. Dr. Flam says that means there’s no lengthy recovery time for muscles, nerves and skin. In addition, the instruments have a greater range of motion and degrees of rotation than a human hand would, allowing surgeons to do more within a shorter time frame. Speed is of the essence with any surgery, since it’s best for patients to be under anesthesia for as little time as possible.
These benefits translate for patients into shorter hospital stays; quicker healing time; and less pain, blood loss and need for narcotic pain medications. This leads to an overall reduced risk for infection or complications.
The decision to put the da Vinci in place was a visionary move at Augusta Health, Dr. Flam believes. “Deciding to invest in technology like this shows that we’re making the most of medical advances,” he notes. “With this type of surgical system, Augusta Health is demonstrating it’s a pioneer in helping patients get the best possible treatment and recover faster and better.”
For more information on Augusta Health’s robotic surgery program, visit augustahealth.com/robotics.