In the past 16 years, TriHealth has completed more than 18,000 robotic surgeries on complex conditions, from organ reconstruction to cancer removal, and these procedures are improving patient outcomes across the board.
The benefits to minimally invasive surgery have been apparent for years, thanks to laparoscopic procedures. But with robot-assisted surgeries, patients can recover even faster and with fewer complications. The advantages of robotic-assisted surgery include:
· Increased precision allowing for delicate cutting and stitching not possible through other minimally-invasive techniques.
· Smaller incisions, often the size of a dime, that can mean less pain compared to open surgery.
· A quicker recovery and less time spent in the hospital because of the small incisions and less disturbance inside the body.
· Better vision for surgeons through the use of a 3D camera which gives them a view 10 times better than the human eye.
· Less blood loss and risk of infection due to minimal incisions.
TriHealth adopted the technology for robotic surgeries at Good Samaritan Hospital in 2003 with the first robotic-assisted surgery in Cincinnati. For surgeons such as Mark Delworth, MD, a fellowship-trained urologic oncology surgeon and medical director of TriHealth’s robotic surgery program, the hard work was just beginning.
“We were one of the first practices in Ohio to use robotics for urologic surgery,” Dr. Delworth said. “When we first got the robot, we’d go into the clinic and sew rubber tubing together on the weekend to practice with it. Then we’d use it to go operate on cadavers at Ohio State. We did that for nine months before we operated on our first patient.”
Those hours of practicing sewing rubber tubing together are over for good, Dr. Delworth said.
“When you’re an early adapter, there’s really no playbook, so you’re inventing things as you go,” he said. “With simulators these days, you can mimic operating on human tissue, so no one has to do what I did anymore.”
Adopting robotic surgery has improved patient outcomes substantially at TriHealth, said Patrick Wright, manager for perioperative operations. Wright collects data on robotic procedures at TriHealth, from the cost of the surgery to time spent in the operating room to patient recovery times.
“We use the data to identify opportunities to improve and also let surgeons know when what they’re doing is really working for the patient,” Wright said.
One field where patient outlook has improved with the help of robotic surgery is in surgically removing prostate cancer, Dr. Delworth said.
“When we took out the prostate, patients used to have significant blood loss,” Dr. Delworth said. “We’re talking transfusion rates of 30 percent. Now it’s less than a tenth of a percent.”
Recovery times for prostatectomies have also improved with robot-assisted surgeries, from three days in the hospital to recover to one overnight stay. Catheter use in recovery has also been cut from three weeks to seven days.
“You see patients going home in half the time, and with half the blood loss,” Dr. Delworth said. “They’re so happy and thankful that it really re-energizes you.”
Wright said TriHealth has a culture of surgeons who have dedicated themselves to learning robotic surgery for even the most complex procedures, to give patients the best outcomes possible. “They do it because they know the patient will benefit in the long run,” he said.
Since those days as an early adopter, TriHealth surgeons have developed the program and are using robotic technology to perform many complex procedures throughout the body, including the esophagus, heart, lungs, pancreas, bladder, kidneys, colon and male/female reproductive organs and glands.
To perform robotic surgeries, surgeons into a device similar to a microscope with a high-definition camera on the other end and they slip their hands into sleeves with sensors that mimic wrist movement, pinching motions and other precise actions.
“You feel like you’re almost inside the body when you’re doing robotic surgery,” Dr. Delworth said. “It’s a big ‘Aha!’ moment when that happens.”
Dr. Delworth called TriHealth surgeons’ enthusiasm for robot-assisted surgery “phenomenal.”
“There’s something about robotics that invigorates the older surgeons,” he said. “I’ve seen doctors who were within a year of retiring jump into robotics, and they add five more years to their career. It’s because this sort of thing reminds you why you went into medicine in the first place.”
To schedule a consult for a robotic-assisted surgery or to learn more about the program, visit trihealth.com or call 513-569-5070.