Gottlieb Visitors Get Hands On With Robotic Surgery Simulation


The da Vinci XI is the latest model used in the urology department at Gottlieb.


Anyone can pick up blocks, put rings on poles, and place color jacks in the correct bin. Sounds easy enough right? Try doing it with robotic arms with only your middle finger and thumb controlling the actions. This was all test for the Da Vinci XI robotic simulator presentation at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital on April 25.

The hospital, located at 701 W. North Ave., provided an hour long presentation about how the machine helps decrease the healing time compared to regular surgery. More than 30 attendees had the chance to perform different objectives using the simulator. Tasks done by those who tried the system had their performance displayed on a monitor for others to see.

Even though participants performed basic exercises, it gave them the idea of how doctors use it in surgical practices. Kevin Leavesley, marketing project manager at Loyola University Health System, said the hospital has recently received the machine and has already put it to use.

“The robot just got here in February. It’s located and used in the urology department. They did their first procedure with it and the lady who got it done was back to work in two and a half weeks,” Leavesley said.

The system has different features for urological surgery including 3D vision and versatility in the wrist movements that provide a better range of motion. These features are said to even help reach places that can’t be touched by human hands.

Kenyatta Evans-Snulligan, a family medicine physician at MD at Home, located at 1100 W. Cermak, said that if she was a surgeon it would make her feel more comfortable doing it in a robotic way rather than doing an open procedure.

“It’s interesting, it’s like playing with a toy like my son’s video game, but also it is more sensitive than you think it is. You gotta get used to the depth reception and the hand-eye coordination, and once you do it becomes more comfortable,” Snulligan said.

The hospital paid an estimated $1 million for the machine and has performed 16 operations since it arrived. Even though the system is designed to help decrease the patient’s stay following surgery, they still have the choice of whether they want their procedure done by robot or by hand.


Brewton talks to visitors about the new features of the da Vinci robot (photo by: J.L. Bizzle)

Kamilah Brewton, a sales representative from the company, not only hosts presentations about the system, but also received minor surgery by the robot. Brewton said she was walking around in three days and fully recovered in six days.

“The beauty of it here is that they’re bringing the opportunity of memory invasive surgery to the community. It’s offering different procedures of urology for patients who may of otherwise had something open,” Brewton said.

Some of the procedures the system can be used for include prostate cancer, kidney disease and kidney cancer, bladder cancer, and lymph node removal. Tina Heffernan, surgical coordinator at Gottlieb, said in a text message that since the system has became available caseloads in the hospital have been quicker than it was before.

“It’s the newest model, and it is more state of the art because of the three dimensional feature. Surgeons are now more capable of performing these exact precision cuts,” Heffernan said.

The machine got its name from Leonardo Da Vinci and his study on human anatomy. His studies led to what is believed to be of the first robot that was rediscovered in the 1950s. His invention of the robotic knight and his interest in anatomy became the inspiration of the modern day system.

The machine works by sending a laparoscope inside the patient and the image is displayed on a monitor. Through the use of hand and foot controls, it gives surgeons 360 degree rotation for incisions and it remembers the last position of the operation. Control of the device can be difficult at times as the robotic hands can get stuck at times requiring repeated movements from the operator to loosen.

Although the robot is said to be a technological breakthrough, there are risk of complications that comes with its use. Some of the risk include infection, tissue damage, blood loss, and even pieces of the instrument falling off during surgery. There are few cases of injury, but the machine is approved by the FDA for soft tissue surgery.

The minimally invasive procedure has been performed on over 3 million people worldwide.

Additional information on the Da Vinci XI system can be found on the Gottlieb Memorial Hospital Website.


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