Physicians perform first surgery with new robotics system

  • Published
  • By Samuel King Jr.

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. - Physicians with the 96th Medical Group completed the first robotic-assisted surgery here Nov. 2

Using the unit’s new DaVinci Robotics System, the team performed a successful hernia repair operation.  The unit has plans to use the quad-armed robot for most general and even complex procedures in the future.

"This capability allows us to accomplish so much more for the patient and in a less invasive manner,” said Maj. (Dr.) George Fulghum, the 96th MDS medical director of general surgery.

During the surgical procedure the robot is placed above the patient and the arms, which have interchangeable tools on them to perform different tasks, are moved into position.  The doctor makes the required patient incisions manually.  Then the arms are inserted into the body.  The physicians sit approximately five feet away in the system console where they can view the inside of the body via the robot’s 3D cameras and manipulate the arms with hand and foot controls.

Some of the benefits the robot provides are better vision, precision and ergonomics for the physicians.  The smaller robotic hands provide much more dexterity in a smaller opening within the patient compared to performing the same function manually.   This provides a less invasive incision on the body during the surgery.  This has the potential for minimized patient pain and length of hospital stay, according to Fulghum.

Hospital physicians can already use the robot to perform general surgical procedures on the colon, gall bladder, hernias among others. They plan move on to more complex surgeries like the hiatal hernia repairs, thoracic, and urologic procedures like prostate, bladder, kidney and adrenal operations in the coming months.

Many of the physicians and support staff have extensive training in robotic-assisted surgery through courses, simulations, and residences.  They are now able to use that training here.   Also, with the robotic system at the hospital now, new Airmen, medics and staff can begin training in-house.