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Robot gives Exeter Hospital surgeons a helping hand

Union Leader Correspondent

April 03. 2018 10:12AM
Jason Schreiber /Union Leader Correspondent Dr. Jay Swett, a general surgeon at Exeter Hospital, demonstrates the new da Vinci Xi Surgical System. 

The tiny wristed instruments on the da Vinci Xi Surgical System move based on the moments of a surgeon's hands while seated at a nearby console. (Jason Schreiber)

EXETER — For the first time, surgeons at Exeter Hospital are getting two helping hands in the operating room from a robot.

The hospital’s first robot — called a da Vinci Xi Surgical System — was wheeled into operating rooms last week following a “Meet the Robot” day on March 28 that gave the public a chance to check it out and give it a try.

It’s the newest and most advanced da Vinci system and offers the latest innovation in precision robotic-assisted surgery.

“What this does is it allows us to perform advanced laparoscopic procedures with robotic precision so we’re able to dissect tissue and place sutures much more accurately,” said Dr. Chris Roseberry, a general surgeon who will be using the new robot.

The advanced technology allows surgeons to operate with fewer incisions. During an operation, the surgeon sits at a surgeon console and places both hands on master controls. The surgical instruments inside a patient’s body move in response to the surgeon’s hand, wrist and finger movements. The tiny wristed instruments have a greater range of motion than a human hand while working on a patient, which doctors say allows for more precise movements.

The original da Vinci hit the market 20 years ago, but the one at Exeter Hospital is known as the fourth generation system.

Exeter and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center are the only hospitals using the latest da Vinci robot in New Hampshire, according to Stan Kobylanski, a da Vinci clinical sales representative who was on hand to answer questions and assist with demonstrations.

The robot will be used by surgeons from general surgery, obstetrics/gynecology and urology.

The system comes with an Integrated Table Motion Bed that’s electronically connected to the robot.

It offers a magnified 3D high-definition image as well, which Roseberry said gives doctors a much better representation of what they’re seeing internally.

“It’s better than what the human eye can do if you’re actually in there operating laparoscopically. With normal laparoscopic procedures we’re looking at a 2D image on a TV. This changes that to a 3D image, so the advantage to us is to get better visualization and better accuracy,” he said.

The robot also allows for less movement of the ports that go through the abdominal wall that are used for the instruments during surgery, which Roseberry said result in less pain for the patient because the muscles aren’t being moved around as much as they would during traditional laparoscopic surgery.

“In New Hampshire, where we’re really concerned about post-operative pain management and narcotic use, it’s widely proven that this has less post-operative pain so that’s going to be a huge benefit to our patients as well,” he said.

Dr. Evelyne Caron, a obstetrician/gynecologist, said the robot allows for minimally invasive surgery, which means more patients are able to go home on the day of the surgery.

Dr. Jay Swett, also a general surgeon, said doctors using the robot underwent extensive training, which included working at a lab in Atlanta, operating on models, and visiting other facilities to watch surgeons who have experience with robots.

Doctors have also spent 25 to 30 hours training on the hospital’s simulator, which is a life-like computer-based simulation of an operation.

Kobylanski said robotic-assisted surgery is the future, but added, “It will never replace the surgeon.”

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