Robotic Surgery: The New Normal

Robotic Surgery: The New Normal

Lehigh Valley Institute for Surgical Excellence offers the region’s most advanced technology and experienced surgeons

When Carl Gerhart, 72, of Nazareth needed a kidney removed, he didn’t want six weeks of recovery and an eight-inch scar. Gerhart turned to Lehigh Valley Institute for Surgical Excellence and learned he could have robotic surgery to remove his kidney. Choosing this approach meant that with a few small incisions, and precise surgery, he could count on a more rapid recovery. In fact, Gerhart was back on his feet in two weeks.

Robotic surgery is now the new normal in surgical care. At the Institute for Surgical Excellence, their expertise in robotic surgery dates back more than a decade, with more than 15,000 robotic procedures to date. “Our initial use of this technology centered around caring for patients with prostate as well as gynecologic cancers,” says surgeon Michael Pasquale, MD, with LVPG General, Bariatric and Trauma Surgery and physician-in-chief with Lehigh Valley Institute for Surgical Excellence. “We quickly realized the potential of robotics to improve care for patients while providing outcomes equivalent to those of traditional surgery.”

The Institute for Surgical Excellence offers the region’s largest and most advanced robotic surgery program, with a total of 10 robots across all Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) hospital campuses. More than 50 highly skilled surgeons employ the technology in 11 different specialties.

Recently, the Institute for Surgical Excellence became one of only 15 sites worldwide to utilize the da Vinci SP® (single port) robotic surgery system, a next-generation technology newly cleared by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for urologic and certain otolaryngology procedures.

Robotic advantages

“Robotic” doesn’t mean “automated.” “A surgeon still does the procedure just like in a traditional or laparoscopic surgery,” Pasquale says. “The robot is a tool—but in many cases, it’s a superior tool in terms of technical capabilities and impact on patients.”

Superior access

“This system allows for surgeons to see in 3D and provides refined wrist articulation to allow for precision surgery,” says gynecologic oncologist Martin Martino, MD, medical director of the Minimally Invasive and Robotic Surgery Program at LVHN.

Smaller incisions

Traditional thoracic surgeries may require opening the chest. “With robotic surgery, you can go through three tiny incisions on the side,” says thoracic surgeon Richard Chang, MD, with LVPG Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery. “That’s a huge advantage when it comes to returning patients to normal function.”

Less pain

Small incisions often entail less pain. “We typically use fewer opioids both during and after a robotic surgery,” says urologist Angelo Baccala Jr., MD, with LVPG Urology and chief of urology at LVHN—“in some cases, none at all.”

Advancing technology

With the da Vinci systems, multiple highly articulated instruments access the body through one or a few small incisions. This allows less tissue disruption and unparalleled movement through all quadrants of the abdomen. “That’s valuable for procedures like colon surgery in which visualizing blood flow helps ensure a healthy connection where the two pieces of a colon are joined,” says surgeon Paul Cesanek, MD, with LVPG General, Bariatric, and Trauma Surgery.

Visualization can be enhanced with a fluorescent technology called Firefly that illuminates tissue receiving blood. “Robotic technology also provides incredible strength and precision for tissue manipulation such as releasing muscles during hernia surgery,” Cesanek says.

And for patients like Carl Gerhart, robotic surgery means quicker recovery. “Patients are super happy to go home the next day in some cases rather than be in the hospital for extended periods,” Baccala says.

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