Hospital to offer robotic surgery

Susan Montgomery, Staff Writer, Greenwood Commonwealth

Dr Kimberly Sanford was all smiles Wednesday during a demonstration at Greenwood Leflore Hospital of a robotic surgical system that will be installed at the hospital.

With the system, a doctor looking into a three-dimensional screen guides the arms of a separate unit. The arms hold long wands, each about the width of a pencil, to perform surgery. These can slide into small incisions, making the surgery less invasive.

Sanford’s excited that the equipment will be installed at Greenwood Leflore.

“I have been more like the surgeon champion” of adding robotic surgery to the hospital’s options, Sanford said. An obstetrician-gynecologist, Sanford has been practicing in Greenwood for three years and now is vice chief of the hospital’s medical staff.

A graduate of Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, she used robotic surgical equipment during her residency at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan. So she is familiar with the advantages for patients offered by robotic equipment and pleased with the hospital board’s authorization of the $1.2 million acquisition Tuesday.

The equipment for Greenwood Leflore is the newest of four generations. The first was introduced nearly 20 years ago, and the equipment is known widely as an option for prostate surgery. Since then, robotics have been employed for other types of operations, such as those to correct hernias or gynecological conditions.

For example, Sanford said she will use the equipment for hysterectomies. “The nice thing about the robotics is the 10 times magnification,” she said.

Women who have had C-sections often have scars that impede incisions during a hysterectomy.

The magnification lets a surgeon work more closely and therefore more precisely, which improves patient outcomes.

The hospital’s da Vinci X System is manufactured by Intuitive Surgical, which is based in Sunnyvale, California. Michael Crouch, a clinical sales representative for Intuitive, said the system allows surgeries to be conducted in a minimally invasive manner.

The system has three components: a console where a surgeon sits and looks into a three-dimensional screen to view organs and guide arms, a vision tower that contains computers as well as a two-dimensional screen and a patient cart. This is placed over the patient and has three arms for surgery and a fourth with a camera, which provides images for the surgeon at the console. A surgeon can operate with all three arms at one time.

Among those at a demonstration were Marcus Banks and Tracy Shelton, who are members of the hospital board. Shelton tried out the surgeon’s console and commented afterward, “We are doing the best we can at the hospital.”

Banks and interim CEO Gary Marchand talked about the hope that the new equipment will meet not only existing surgical needs but those in the future. Banks added, “It should help us regionally.”

Marchand agreed. “We think it will all be delivered and set up by the spring,” he said.

Sanford explained more about the system’s value to patients. After a hysterectomy, a patient might leave the hospital the next day or perhaps in the next two or three days. A robotic surgery can shorten that period.

She presented a hypothetical, asking, “What if you come in at 7:30 in the morning and I take your uterus out, and you go home at 8 p.m. Would you like that?”

Patients need less medication and experience less pain, she explained.

Sanford reiterated that the surgery is not autonomous.

“The only thing that’s robotic about it is that I am not standing over a patient. I am sitting at a console,” she said.