Robotic-assisted surgery now available at WellStar

Published 10:14 pm Friday, February 2, 2018

Dr. Wesley Turton was in the driver’s seat for WellStar West Georgia Medical Center’s first robotic surgery with its new da Vinci® Xi™ Surgical System.

Peering into a highly magnified screen, he maneuvered the robot’s each and every move as he performed bariatric surgery. In turn, the robot provided Dr. Turton with high-definition vision and robotic “wrists” that bend and rotate more precisely than the human hand.

“The da Vinci robot is not only less invasive, but it also can make incisions smaller than a human hand can make, even ones as tiny as a keyhole,” said Dr. Turton, whose medical practice, WellStar Medical Group General Surgery & Bariatrics, has locations in LaGrange, Columbus and Opelika, Alabama. “With this system, I can maneuver instruments much greater than traditional instruments.“

Over the past several months, Dr. Turton has used the da Vinci robot to perform sleeve gastrectomy and Roux-En-Y gastric bypass as well as hernia repair and other general surgery procedures. Dr. Turton, as well as all the other surgeons using the robotics technology, have had extensive hands-on training and education prior to performing robotic surgery.

Because the advanced technology is minimally invasive, patients who have had robotic surgery usually experience less blood loss, fewer complications, quicker recovery and less scarring than traditional open surgery, Dr. Turton said.

WellStar WGMC’s robot has been a busy one, with Dr. James Bendell and Dr. Ralston Major utilizing the da Vinci robot for their surgeries. Dr. Bendell has used robotic surgery for patients needing hysterectomies, tubal ligations and other women’s health conditions, while Dr. Major has performed hernia repairs and other general surgery procedures.

Together, the doctors performed 49 robotic surgeries during the first month. WGMC’s Surgical Services department reached a milestone of 50 robot-assisted surgeries on Tuesday, Jan. 9, when Dr. Bendell performed a robotic assisted ovarian cystectomy.

“As physicians, we are thrilled to be able to use this new technology,” Dr. Bendell said.

“It enhances our precision, and it’s much better for our patients, who will typically experience less pain, less blood loss, less of an infection risk, and a faster return to their normal activities.”

Robotic surgery is minimally invasive. During surgery, three or four robotic arms are inserted into a patient through small incisions in the abdomen, said MaryLois Calhoun, WGMC’s Surgical Services director. One arm is a camera, two act as the surgeon’s hands, and a fourth arm may be used to move obstructions out of the way.

A complete surgical team surrounds the patient, while the surgeon is seated at a nearby console. The surgeon uses a viewfinder that provides a 3D-HD visualization of the surgical field, and the surgeon’s hands are placed in special devices that direct the instruments. An important capability of the da Vinci robotic system, is that all four arms are controlled by the surgeon.

The robotic arms filter out any possible hand tremors and increase the physician’s range of motion and precision, said Lindsey Perkins, WGMC’s Manager, Surgical Services.  The magnified screen the physician views on the console gives him or her better visualization of the surgical site, she said.

Patients who have had surgery with the da Vinci System typically are home within 23 hours, compared with several days for patients who undergo traditional surgery for the same condition. Additionally, da Vinci patients usually are back to full activity in two to four weeks, compared with four to six weeks for traditional surgery patients.

“I’m not sure I can convey adequately how energized we all are in Surgical Services to be able to offer this technology to physicians and to our patients,” Calhoun said.

“It gives us an incredible feeling to know that our friends, our family members, our neighbors, and all our other patients can now benefit from the advantages of having this advanced technology so close to home.”

As of January 2018, WellStar Health System now offers the latest robotics technology at more hospital campuses than any other health system in Georgia.

WellStar physicians and hospital leaders reviewed the robotic surgery program across the health system to determine ways to strengthen its capabilities, and then matched requirements with the most appropriate and cost-effective technology.

In addition to the purchase of new robots, this review led to some existing robotic surgical systems being moved from one hospital to another. In addition to WellStar West Georgia Medical Center, WellStar also launched new robotics programs at WellStar Douglas and North Fulton hospitals and WellStar Atlanta Medical Center South.