Vail Health reports successful results from robotic surgery technology

Dr. Turner Lyle, in the center, spoke to the audience about Da Vinci’s abilities on Wednesday, May 25.
Vail Health / photo from courtesy

Vail Health hosted an event on Wednesday, May 25, to allow the public to see the Da Vinci robotic surgery tool first hand. The robot translates human movements into robotic ones, and Vail Health reports successful results after using it for almost a year and a half.

The robot can turn the pinching of the thumb and forefinger into an electronic grip of surgical forceps or almost any other surgical instrument.

For some patients, the Da Vinci term is a mystery, said Stephanie Kearney, vice president of outpatient services at Vail Health.

“It’s an unknown term,” Kearney said.

The four arms of the machine hang over the patient. The surgeon controls the hands and camera from a nearby console. Dr Turner Lyle said the doctor was always in the same room.

Referring to a procedure performed on Da Vinci’s predecessor, ZEUS, Lisle said: “They did a transatlantic cholecystectomy. I can’t understand how they did it in 2001. We would never have thought to do it now. “

Dr. Turner Lyle leads someone through Da Vinci’s controls.
Vail Health / photo from courtesy

He said that communication between the patient’s surgical team and the operating surgeon is important for successful operations and he would not want bandwidth restrictions to interfere.

The main advantage of Da Vinci is its minimally invasive impact. The tools and chambers are small enough to fit through incisions the size of a lock, which means fewer scars and less time to heal. Despite their small size, the tools have full articulation.

“He can articulate just like a human wrist,” Lyle said. The old standard of “straight sticking” or using a straight nail-like instrument, with only the ability to open and close, often leads to more tissue trauma and abdominal pain during laparoscopic surgery, he said. Da Vinci allows for more advanced movements and fewer injuries, as increased articulation allows the operator to move on the abdomen less clumsily and with more precision.

Less pain and fewer incisions also mean a faster return to activity. He said patients could return to physical activity within days of surgery. Overall, he said, normal recovery periods of six to eight weeks are reduced to 10 to 14 days.

Da Vinci is not a substitute for doctors, nor is he a crutch. Lyle said Da Vinci doesn’t make a bad surgeon a good one.

“It makes a good surgeon better,” he said, allowing the surgeon to perform more complex operations.

Surgery around the wall of the front of the abdomen, he said, can be particularly difficult. When the patient is lying face up, the surgeon must find a way to operate on the lower side of the abdominal wall while standing over the body. Da Vinci makes this easy with its articulation and ability to reach back and forth like a fish hook.

While the surgeon should be in the room, the consulted surgeon does not. Lisle said that if another surgeon using Da Vinci needed advice from another doctor, they could broadcast the live broadcast of Da Vinci’s camera on a smartphone.

Since its introduction in December 2020, Vail Health has seen a reduction in opioid complications and prescriptions.

“We’ve reduced drug prescriptions by an average of 75 percent,” Lyle said, comparing robotic surgeries to standard laparoscopic surgeries. Vail Health reports that opioid prescribing after inguinal and ventral hernia repair has dropped by 83% and 82%, respectively, compared to open surgery.

Similarly, data from Vail Health show that complications due to surgery have decreased significantly compared to the national average. He also did not report any complications due to surgery or infections at the surgical site.

Vail Health’s robotics program has handled 370 cases so far. Of these, 319 are general procedures or hernias, 32 are urological and 19 are gynecological.

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