Woman's Hospital Leading State in Innovative Robotic Surgery

Third da Vinci Si HD Surgical System now in use

September 8, 2011

Known for offering obstetric and gynecologic care specifically tailored to the comfort of women since 1975, Woman’s Hospital is now leading the state in performing more minimally-invasive surgeries using the latest robotic-assisted surgical system, the da Vinci Si HD Surgical System.

Woman’s has a dedicated robotic surgical team that has completed hundreds of multi-specialty da Vinci procedures in a significantly shorter time frame than any regional hospital in Mississippi, said Sherry Pitts, CEO of Woman’s Hospital.

“Our physicians are extremely skilled, performing some of the most advanced surgical techniques in the state,” Pitts said. “The addition of a third da Vinci Si HD Surgical System will allow them to continue to offer patients the most advanced procedures and overall improved patient outcomes.”

Other “firsts” recorded at Woman’s include the first hospital in Mississippi to use the 8.5mm scope; to purchase a robotic simulator and three Si da Vinci systems; and to utilize a second robotic simulator.

“Robot-assisted surgery has experienced a high level of success at Woman’s Hospital in the areas of gynecological and abdominal surgery,” said Pitts.

In robotic surgery, tiny mechanical arms are inserted into the patient through very small incisions. The surgeon controls the robot’s movements while operating at a control console. The robot translates the surgeon's hand, wrist and finger movements into corresponding micro-movements of the instrument tip. Similar movements also control a camera to present a view inside the patient's body, offering improved clarity and detail of tissue and anatomy, critical factors when performing delicate procedures. A surgical team at the patient’s side supervises the robotic arms.

The newest robot, the da Vinci Si HD system gives surgeons enhanced high-definition 3D vision and a dual-console capability to support training. Benefits to patients are equally notable, Pitts said.

“For most patients, robotic surgery offers a shorter hospital stay, reduced risk of infection and less pain, less blood loss and scarring and a shorter recovery time,” Pitts said. “All of these factors translate into a quicker return to normal routine.”

Three of the over 20 surgeons regularly performing robotic surgery at Woman’s Hospital include:

  • Darden North, MD, Obstetrics/Gynecology – Jackson Healthcare for Women
  • Mercer Lee, MD, Gynecology – Jackson Healthcare for Women
  • John Baten, MD, Obstetrics/Gynecology – Women’s Health Associates

North has been using the robotic system since 2010 and has already performed over 80 surgeries.  He uses the da Vinci for a variety of gynecologic procedures to cure surgical illnesses, including total laparoscopic hysterectomy with or without removal of the ovaries as well as in myomectomy or removal of fibroids to save the uterus.

North says numerous other gynecological procedures can be performed using this technology. He believes the applications will increase as patients request additional procedures with the da Vinci and more in-depth training is provided to surgeons for extended use.

“I realized the da Vinci surgical system would offer my patients decreased post-operative discomfort and the treasured opportunity to return to their normal lives and activities as soon as possible,” North said. “It became obvious to me that the da Vinci robot allows greater surgical precision and less manipulation of tissues in gynecological surgery, enabling me to offer even more successful laparoscopic, minimally-invasive procedures.”

North said awareness of the da Vinci system has grown throughout his patient base over the past several months. He attributes this to the fact that more physicians in a variety of specialty areas are using the system and offering it as an option. Widespread publicity through the media, including a popular medical television series, has increased public awareness, he believes.  

“When the need for surgery arises and I am discussing minimally invasive, laparoscopic surgery with them, many patients are already familiar with the name da Vinci surgery,” said North. “Also, Intuitive Surgical, Inc., the company that produces our robotic system, offers a website and patient literature which aids in educating patients.  Patients should keep themselves informed about treatment options. That's important.”

Faster recovery along with fewer complications has brought the da Vinci procedures to the forefront of medicine, impressing both surgery patients and staff, North added.

“Physicians who use robotic gynecological surgery and the post-op nursing staff have been pleased regarding how quickly their patients bounce back after a da Vinci surgery,” North said. “In fact, just this past week, one of the registered nurses at Woman’s Hospital thanked me for using the da Vinci system.  She stressed how much less discomfort her post-op patients were experiencing and how quickly they were to ambulate.”

Lee admits he was not an immediate convert to robotic surgery, but soon changed his mind after viewing firsthand the data and outcomes pointing to a breakthrough in modern surgery.

“As recent as last year, I was not a believer in the procedure,” Lee said. “I thought the robot was another marketing gimmick, and I mainly went to view the procedure so I would have enough experience to assist my partners that were beginning to use it. After seeing what could be done in the lab, I became more enthusiastic. I then watched a Baton Rouge surgeon perform a difficult case converting what formerly would have been an abdominal hysterectomy to a laparoscopic procedure. I decided then I wanted to pursue this.”

Lee added he has now completed 20 cases, each with favorable outcomes for his patients. He primarily uses the robot to perform hysterectomies and other abdominal-pelvic surgeries, including removal of tubes, ovaries and uterine fibroids. Utilizing general surgery consults; Lee has also performed appendectomies and cholescystectomies or gall bladder removals using the robot.

“Each of my patients has done remarkably well after surgery with the da Vinci,” Lee said. “They have all gone home the morning following surgery and have experienced significantly less pain compared to similar cases done without use of the da Vinci. This has been very impressive.”

Baten has been performing da Vinci robotic procedures since 2005 and currently uses the da Vinci system to perform a type of total laparoscopic hysterectomy labeled a robotic-assisted single port and. Baten performs the laparoscopic procedure through a single entry point – the belly button – using robotic assistance. Following surgery, the patient has no visible scar incision due to a tiny incision virtually hidden within the belly button.

Patients recover quickly and usually return home the following day, Baten said. In addition, they are  able to resume regular activities, including returning to work, within seven days, a significant improvement from outcomes experienced with traditional hysterectomy.

"This is truly a breakthrough surgical technique for women who must undergo a hysterectomy procedure," said Baten, one of only a few surgeons in the US trained to perform the procedure. "With the introduction of the single port technique, we can address the procedure through a single entry point. This incorporates the clinical benefits of a total laparoscopic procedure with the advantages of improved patient comfort and cosmetic results."

Woman’s dedication to growing the da Vinci surgery program has been the primary factor that has attracted more physicians to the practice, thus making it more readily available to patients, North feels.

“What has made our robotic program such a success for the patients and physicians at Woman's Hospital is the dedication shown by the administrative and OR staffs,” North said. “The robot team focuses on enhancing the safety and efficiently of our procedures. Very few facilities offer three of the latest, most modern Si da Vinci robotic systems like Woman’s has done. Now even more patients than ever will be able to benefit from the procedure.”

Lee agrees, adding, “Woman’s Hospital has made the decision to be a leader in robotic surgery and has worked with us very well. They are aware this calls for continued upgrading in terms of equipment, and they are also aware of the need for highly trained personnel in the operating suite to support this. The staff is very capable and eager. This is also true of the recovery staff and the post op staff. This makes the whole surgical experience better for the patients and physicians.”