Skip to content

Robotic surgeries increase in Memphis

Robotic surgeries increase in Memphis

Posted: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 8:01 pm
By: AP

MEMPHIS (AP) — Robots are assuming an increasing workload in Memphis hospitals because the surgical procedures they are used for are less invasive and offer quicker recovery periods for patients who undergo traditional surgeries, doctors say.
Less than 10 years since robotic surgery came to Memphis, five robots are now performing about 1,000 operations each year, according to The Commercial Appeal. Methodist University, Methodist North and Methodist Germantown each have one robot, and Baptist Memorial Hospital-Memphis has two.
Surgeons who use the robots are doing hysterectomies, removing prostates and kidneys, replacing heart valves, cutting out cancerous lung lobes and conducting head and neck surgeries. Doctors say patients who undergo robotic surgeries suffer less pain and recover more quickly than after conventional operations.
In the Methodist Le Bonheur system, the number of robotic surgeries increased 40 percent, to 491, last year. At Baptist, robotic surgeries now number 500-550 annually, officials said.
Learning how to do the surgeries took a while, but doctors became more accustomed to the process as time went on and the benefits of the robotic procedures became clear.
“It’s a minimal-access surgery,“ said Dr. Todd Tillmanns, a gynecologic oncologist and president of the Memphis Robotic Surgical Society. ”You have smaller incisions, more delicate surgeries, less blood loss, less injury to localized tissue, and because of that, the patient recovers faster and has much less pain.“
Tillmanns said about 95 percent of patients who undergo robotic gynecologic surgeries leave the hospital in less than a day. That’s compared with a norm of three or four days for traditional operations.
Meanwhile, 75 percent of the patients are not taking any pain medication within three days, and they generally return to normal routines within three to seven days, Tillmanns said. Robotic surgery is less expensive than conventional surgery but a little more costly than laparoscopic procedures, Tillmanns said.
The robotic surgeries have put Memphis doctors on the cutting edge. For example, Methodist University is now one of a small number of U.S. hospitals where the robotic head and neck surgery is available, said Dr. Sandeep Samant, head of the division of head and neck surgery at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.
The operations are directed by surgeons manipulating hand and foot controls at a nearby console. Samant used the robotic procedure to deal with cancer that formed in the throat of patient James Entrekin.
During Entrekin’s surgery, Samant’s hands grip a controller as he presses his head against a console that gives a close-up, three dimensional image of Entrekin’s throat.
The movements of Samant’s hands are transmitted to the robot’s cable-thin arms, which move like human wrists and hold four instruments at once. Under Samant’s direction, the robot removes tumors, cauterizes blood vessels and suctions fluids while transmitting video images of the procedure.
The surgery is done in a couple of hours. Since there was no need to cut open Entrekin’s face and throat and break his jaw — which is done in conventional oral-cancer surgeries — Entrekin will enjoy a lower risk of complications and a much shorter recovery period, while avoiding extended difficulties swallowing and speaking.
“You avoid all that because that natural anatomy is not violated,” Samant said.
Entrekin, a 56-year-old Air Force retiree and laid-off truck driver, said he researched his options and was drawn to the benefits offered by robots. He said that if the only option had been traditional surgery, he probably would have opted for just chemotherapy and radiation.
Entrekin experienced some minor complications but said he’s been pain-free since the operation. He starts radiation in April and says he’s been given a good prognosis.
Entrekin also said he wasn’t too nervous about the prospect of having a robot reach down his throat.  “I was less nervous (about that) than having my jaw cut open,” he said.
Information from: The Commercial Appeal, http://www.commercialappeal.com
Published in The Messenger 4.13.11

Leave a Comment