GW Hospital acquires second robot to perform surgeries

The GW Hospital acquired a $1.6 million da Vinci for its surgery room this year.

The da Vinci Surgical System – the second robotic surgical system at the hospital – will be operated remotely by a surgeon and will help with intricate prostate and kidney surgeries. Resembling a spider, the robot has four arms, some of which act as though they were the surgeon’s hands.

“It’s a set of surgical instruments. It’s not magic; it’s not autonomous,” said Jason Engel, director of urologic robotic surgery. “The reason that robotic surgeries are so perfectly suited is because of the fact that the prostate is in a tough-to-reach spot. It’s as if I’ve shrunken myself.”

The new robot is a big improvement over the first robot that GW acquired in 2003, Engel said.

“They’ve added teaching tools like, for instance, the TV screen has a teleprompter on it, just like if you were watching Monday Night Football with John Madden and he would write on the screen,” he said. “That enables teaching much easier because I can actually point at things while we’re operating for my students.”

Robot-assisted surgery, first approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 2000, is becoming a common method for prostatectomies and heart-bypass surgeries. Since it is a minimally-invasive surgery, there are faster recovery times, less blood loss and smaller incisions.

Engel, who performs about 250 robot-assisted procedures a year, said there is somewhat of a generation gap between older surgeons, who might be less inclined to use robots, and younger surgeons who are more comfortable with these kinds of technology.

“This type of procedure is perfect for younger surgeons that are used to video games, and they grew up on that kind of stuff and it’s not scary to them,” Engel said. “There is the resistance of older generation people. They grew up making incisions. A guy like me has learned how to be a doctor in terms of being minimally invasive.”

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