Dec 16, 2011

BRMC Adds da Vinci Surgical System

Less than a month after announcing the addition of one of the health-care industry's most advanced digital mammography technologies, Baxter Regional Medical Center on Thursday rolled out another premiere medical technology -- the da Vinci Surgical System.

The $1.2-million robotic device that has three mechanical arms has helped to turn some surgical procedures that once took days in pre-op, surgery and recovery into medical procedures completed in hours.

Elected officials, community leaders and BRMC staff members gathered in the Lagerborg Dining Room on the BRMC campus to see the da Vinci system demonstrated and explained by Dr. Christopher Bryant, a Mountain Home physician with specialties in obstetrics, gynecology and gynecologic oncology, and Dr. Daniel Decker, a urologist. Bryant said the da Vinci reduces many surgeries from incisions big enough to make room for a doctor's hands to tiny punctures to make way for da Vinci instruments as small as a half-centimeter wide. As a result of the minimally invasive procedures, recovery times also are reduced dramatically.

The technology was driven somewhat by the Department of Defense as the Pentagon looked for ways to maximize the use of the medical surgical skills of physicians working remotely at robotic controls in war zones, Bryant said. Development of the technology accelerated rapidly beginning in 2000 with the Food and Drug Administration's approval of the first configurations of robotic surgery.

"It's not the best thing since sliced bread, because the technology will change," Bryant said. BRMC's da Vinci Surgical System, however, with more than a decade of improvement from the earliest versions, harkens to parallels between the early super-computers that filled vertical and horizontal spaces as big as a football field to the same processing power now in so-called smart telephones, Bryant said.

Decker told the group that the da Vinci and other technologies like it in the surgical environments of the prostate gland are now the standard-of-care in 90 percent of all surgery involving the prostate. The slightest increments of motion in robot-assisted surgery helps to assure that delicate nerve tissue associated with multiple functions of the prostate remains undisturbed during surgery, he said.

The group also heard a personal testimony from Edith Messick, one of BRMC's first to undergo da Vinci-assisted surgery guided by Bryant. The abdominal surgery on Nov. 28 that not so long ago involved incisions and weeks of recovery was completed in minutes with very little pain, she said.

"After two days I was back to my normal routine," she said. "I'm very happy."

"Da Vinci's advanced level of technology takes surgery beyond the limits of the human hand," said Ron Peterson, BRMC's chief executive officer. "This acquisition complements our goal of extending minimally invasive surgery to the broadest possible base of patients. It can be used for a multitude of procedures, including, but not limited to: prostatectomy, hysterectomy, myomectomy, coronary artery bypass, mitral valve repair and colorectal surgery," Peterson stated.

Following the meeting, Bryant said he and three other BRMC specialists and a surgical team of 10 will keep the da Vinci very busy three days a week. As other medical physicians and medical specialists continue in-service education and skills training with da Vinci, the system is expected to be in use daily, he said.

The da Vinci makers also have no shortage of selling points for its technology. The company claims that da Vinci's enhanced three-dimensional, high-definition vision field provides a view of tissue and anatomy superior to natural sight. Surgical dexterity and precision is far greater than the human hand, the company says. BRMC began about three months ago using the $1.7-million Hologic Tomosynthesis Digital Mammography and Densitometry technology. When the hospital announced the Hologic technology in November, it laid claim to being the first hospital in Arkansas and Missouri to offer the technology. The two technologies are the latest, said Peterson, in a long-term $15-million upgrade to BRMC digital technologies.

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