Two of the most advanced robotic surgery systems in the state have just arrived at the University of Minnesota Medical Center.
Earlier this year, the university purchased two da Vinci Xi Surgical System units from manufacturer Intuitive Surgical. The da Vinci system, a complex robotic platform designed to expand a surgeon’s capabilities, is a state-of-the-art option for minimally invasive major surgery. The two new units—the only systems of their kind in the state—will replace older versions of the same platform.
The system is guided by a surgeon or surgeons, who use a real-time command console to operate up to four robotic arms that can be inserted into a surgical site through 8 mm incisions.
“I think the biggest change with da Vinci-assisted surgery that we provide is that the majority of my patients will go home the same day of their procedure,” University of Minnesota Health Gynecologic Oncologist Melissa Geller, MD, said. “It has really changed our practice in that way.”
Geller has performed nearly 300 surgeries at the University of Minnesota Medical Center using various da Vinci systems. The size of the incisions—smaller than a dime—mean patients lose less blood during procedures, experience less pain and have a smaller risk of post-surgical infection, Geller said.
Geller has used the system to perform complex abdominal surgeries, including hysterectomies, lymph node dissections and ovarian cancer staging.
To use the system, surgeons go through a months-long training regimen and certification process that includes on-site training and simulations, proficiency tests and observation of other da Vinci-guided procedures.
Roughly 30 University of Minnesota Health surgeons are certified to use the systems.
The large robotic platform is surprisingly nimble, with articulated arms capable of seven degrees of motion and an endoscope that provides 3D, high-definition video of the surgical site. The system doesn’t perform procedures on its own; its arms are entirely driven by the surgeon or surgeons operating the command console.
“It’s almost like driving a car. It’s very intuitive, and operating it is like second nature,” said Geller, who also performs laparoscopic surgeries.
In certain cases, two surgeons can work in tandem to perform a surgery. A resident can also use a second command console to observe a procedure as part of his or her training. Patients can choose whether to undergo a da Vinci-assisted surgery, or have the surgery performed using more traditional laparoscopic techniques.