LIMA — St. Rita's Medical Center gave area high school students an opportunity to learn more about robotic surgery techniques and see the equipment close up during a hands-on session Thursday at UNOH Event Center.
The event attracted 75 students from 11 high schools, as well as representatives from various YMCA chapters, all of whom have shown interest or promise in the fields of medicine or engineering. During the three-hour event, students had the opportunity to interact with surgeons and support staff involved with robotic surgery, get a look at laparoscopic equipment and techniques, learn about other robotic initiatives, such as through the YMCA and, finally, get hands-on exprerience with a robotic surgery machine.
Intuitive Surgical, the California-based manufactuer of the da Vinci surgical robot used at St. Rita's, also brought a simulator with the actual surgical robot. According to Ryan Vickers of Intuitive Surgical, robotic surgery offers many advantages even over laparoscopic surgery, which involves surgeons inserting instruments through small incisions to perform surgical procedures.
“The difference between laparoscopic surgery and robotic surgery is that a laparoscopic instrument is essentially a straight instrument that has a trigger on it of some sort,” Vickers said. “With this, the instruments themselves have wrists on the end of them, so they are fully articulating. They essentially mimic the movement of the hand.”
During robotic surgeries, surgeons sit at a console with hand-manipulated controls that work the laparoscopic instruments attached to the robot. The console's viewer offers surgeons a magnified view of the surgical area with three-dimensional perception, allowing them to work around arteries or other tissue they might wish to avoid.
“Also, doctors have the opportunity to sit down and be relaxed while doing surgery,” Vickers said. “If you ask any surgeon if they are as fresh on their sixth surgery as they were on their first, the answer will be no. But if you're sitting down in a comfortable position, they can be as fresh on their last case as they were on their first.”
Urologist Dr. Craig Nicholson has performed robotic surgeries for 11 years. For him, robotic surgery offers many benefits to the patients.
“There's stuff we can do with surgery now where we can make a few tiny incisions, pump in CO2 gas and do very complex work,” he said. “So you'll go home with some tiny incisions and you won't hurt as much and have less blood loss.”
St. Rita's now performs more than 1,000 robotic surgeries in urology, gynecology and cardiothoracic surgery. Nicholson noted that because of the medical center's work with robotics, some patients from such places as Columbus' Ohio State University Hospital have been sent to St. Rita's for surgery.
“It's really revolutionized the way that we do things,” he said. “There are some things that we can't do any other way. Some people have come in with problems way down in the pelvis, where you have a hard time getting into, even with a huge incision. But you can get down in there with the robotic surgery and do stuff you just can't do with regular surgery.”
David Murphy, St. Rita's business development director, was very pleased with the event and hopes to make this a yearly experience.
“We wanted to have a student-centered experience, so students who may be more predisposed to studying physics, math, computer science or medicine can have this opportunity to talk to people who are doing this work now,” he said. “It's a great opportunity to share this technology that is in use at St. Rita's.”