Robotic surgery makes medical history

By Molly Merrill
12:00 AM

ST. PAUL, MN – Medical history was made recently when the first robotic surgery was performed at Regions Hospital, a private, non-profit hospital here.

Sixty-year old Clay Barritt underwent successful cardiac surgery to repair a heart valve last week. His operation, for mitral valve repair, is normally a complicated procedure that traditionally requires open-heart surgery.  However, Barritt’s surgery was performed using a technology called da Vinci S Surgical System, made by the California-based company Intuitive Surgical Systems, and was minimally invasive, leaving little scarring.

The da Vinci is a computer-enhanced system that interposes a computer between the surgeon's hands and the tips of micro-instruments. The system replicates the surgeon's movements in real-time.

The surgeon performs the surgery while sitting at a console, where he has a 3-D image of the surgery site. Using a device called an EndoWrist instrument, the surgeon’s hand movements are scaled, filtered and seamlessly translated into precise movements inside the patient.

"The robotic system is revolutionizing heart surgery," said Goya Raikar, MD, head of the hospital's cardiovascular surgery department, who performed the surgery. "It represents one more piece of our ongoing commitment to provide the best comprehensive care to our patients."

Reportedly, the system has been found to be beneficial, reducing recovery, hospital stays, pain, scarring, blood loss and risk of infection. On average it is reported that hospital time is cut in half and patients are back at their normal operating levels in about two weeks.

"We did a lot of research and knew that this was the route we wanted to go because of the faster recovery time," Barritt said. "I was sitting up in my bed three hours after surgery. That's amazing."

Regions offers a full range of da Vinci assisted cardiac surgery, including coronary artery bypass surgery. In addition, the hospital uses the system for treating prostate cancer and other urological, general, thoracic, and gynecological surgeries.