House Calls

WIN 2018

House Calls Magazine is a quarterly publication that focuses on health and wellness. It includes a wide assortment of articles with topics on the latest health and wellness information, nutrition, safety, lifestyles, and more.

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That's the reality of robotic surgery, which was an emerging technology back in 2004, according to an Annals of Surgery study published that year. Now, more and more types of operations are performed robotically—in fact, in 2016, approximately 753,000 surgical procedures were performed worldwide with the robotic da Vinci Surgical System (used at Roper St. Francis), an increase of about 15 percent compared with 2015. "Robotic surgery has truly changed the game for both patients and doctors," says Roper St. Francis affiliated general surgeon Dr. Bo Blessing. "Every year we're able to treat more conditions robotically, meaning patients have greater access to the benefits of minimally invasive surgery than ever before." Here, Dr. Blessing helps explain how the surgery works and what's new in the field. THE DOC DOES THE DRIVING As sci-fi as the surgery may sound, it's still the surgeon— yes, a human—who is in control. "When using the robotic system, I'm making the machine do what I feel it needs to do," says Dr. Blessing, who is an expert in open and laparoscopic procedures in addition to robotic surgery. "With traditional open surgery, we make a large incision and do the work straight through the opening using our hands," he explains. In contrast, both laparoscopic and robotic surgeries are minimally invasive, using multiple tiny incisions rather than one large opening. Both use a video camera and instruments, as well. In laparoscopic surgery, the surgeon holds the instruments; in robotic procedures, the surgeon sits at a console in the operating room and uses sensitive, "wristed" robotic hand controls that allow different degrees of angulation to move small instruments with even greater flexibility than the human wrist. "When we need to pinch something, move it this way, or twist it that way, we actually do that under the console and the instruments move accordingly," he says, adding that the machine has astounding accuracy. What's more, robotic technology provides three-dimensional, high-definition, magnified images. CHANGING THE GAME So what does all this mean for the patient? "We are able to access tighter spaces within the body and do more complex maneuvers in those tight spaces," Dr. Blessing says. "The robotic technology lets us reach areas we might not be able to laparoscopically, and it lets us do it better and more safely, expanding our minimally invasive capabilities and offerings to more people and cases than ever before." Patients may score additional benefits from robotic surgery, as well, such as reduced pain, a smaller scar, shorter hospital stay, and faster recovery. "Universally, if you are able to accomplish a procedure with smaller incisions, the recovery pain and the amount of inflammation generated will be minimized," says Dr. Blessing. "It's a proven fact that minimally invasive surgery is better tolerated by patients across all strata." Indeed, at Roper St. Francis a growing number of surgeries can be done robotically, including colorectal, thoracic, gynecological, urological, and other general surgical procedures. Roper St. Francis was the first in the Lowcountry to offer robotic prostatectomy (removal of the prostate gland) to treat cancer. "Some of the newest surgeries we're offering are inguinal and incisional hernia repairs," says Dr. Blessing. "This is an area of robotics that's on the cutting edge; we're in the conversation on a national level of how to improve hernia operations." 36 { winter 2018 } h o u s e c a l l s I magine an opening just eight to 12 millimeters wide—about half the diameter of a dime. Now imagine a life-changing surgery performed through a few such miniscule incisions, with tiny surgical instruments reaching tight anatomical spaces via the help of mechanical arms. Dr. Bo Blessing "Universally, if you are able to accomplish a procedure with smaller incisions, the recovery pain and the amount of inflammation generated will be minimized ." —DR. BO BLESSING According to a 2016 article published in PLoS ONE, over the last 14 years, 1.75 million robotic procedures were performed in the United States across a variety of specialties. P H O T O G R A P H S B Y ( D R . C U R T I S Q U I N N ) T A Y L O R D R A K E & ( O P E R A T I N G R O O M ) M A R G R E T W O O D

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