East Alabama Medical Center demostrates new robot

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By Alison James
Associate Editor

New surgical technology at EAMC is moving the surgeon father away from the patient … and closer at the same time.
“I have so much better visual feedback that my brain tells me I can feel it,” said Dr. Bill Golden. “Your brain compensates.”
Golden’s brain tells him he can actually feel the tissue he is probing, which is interesting, because Golden is positioned inside the da Vinci Xi surgical robot some 20 feet away from the patient.
EAMC held an official unveiling of the new surgery robot last Friday in the hospital lobby, including a short demonstration.
Dr. Njideka Obiekwe expressed her pride in having the most up-to-date equipment.
“Our patients not only deserve the best care, they also deserve the best technology there is,” said Obiekwe, a gynecological doctor.
She described the robot as “mindblowing” and emphasized the benefit to the patient.
“They go home in less than 23 hours, they have no major abdominal scars, they have minimal blood loss … and they are able to get back to their usual activities sooner. Who doesn’t want that?” Obiekwe said.
Four robotic arms are controlled by the surgeon in the control center, who views a high-definition image of what he or she is doing.
“It’s a three-dimensional picture, it’s high definition, and it’s well-lighted,” said Golden. Although Golden said he was initially reluctant to give the hospital’s first surgical robot a try, he now does 98 percent of hysterectomies using the technology.
“Surgery has always been fun, but it’s very fun doing it using this technology,” Golden said. “It’s exciting to get to use the newest technology … We’re looking forward to the next few years of using this tool.”
The robot replaces an older model and will serve as a platform to grow robotic technology at EAMC.
“Surgical technology is not inexpensive at all,” said EAMC Assistant Vice President Bruce Zartman said. “It’s a sizable investment … It’s an investment in patient care.”
Although Golden said some have expressed concern at the idea of a robot being involved in the surgery, he said that’s usually because people don’t really understand how it works.
“It only runs when our head is the console and we’re operating the instruments,” Golden said. “A better term for this is, ‘a computer-assisted laproscopic surgery.’
“I appreciate the hospital taking the stand to venture into this technology,” Golden said.

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