Real-life medicine and science fiction merge in Burbank

first_imgBURBANK – With four arms wielding graspers, scissors and forceps, the new robotic surgeon at Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center could be the sidekick for Doc Ock, the evil, tentacled cyborg from the “Spider-Man” comics. But this $1.5 million machine will try to save lives. “We’re the good guys. We’ll be helping Spider-Man,” said Dr. Raymond Schaerf, a thoracic and cardiovascular surgeon who next month will be the first the medical center to perform a surgery using the machine on a cancer patient. “This will be another episode in how we’re advancing. … We’re going to be able to do a better job. We’re all excited.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECasino Insider: Here’s a look at San Manuel’s new high limit rooms, Asian restaurant The medical center recently became the first hospital west of Texas to purchase the second generation da Vinci Surgical System, according to its creators, Sunnyvale-based Intuitive Surgical Inc. The new technology is part of a growing medical trend since Dr. Jacques Himpens used robotics to remove a gall bladder in 1997 in Belgium, said Andy Savarese, an Intuitive Surgical sales representative. Since then, tens of thousands of robotic-assisted surgeries have been performed around the world. Sixteen other Southern California hospitals have earlier versions of the da Vinci system, but the Burbank medical center is the first to have the upgraded system. It’s more compact, has more extensive movements of the arms and can work in multiple parts of the body without having to make new incisions. From a control console the size of a race car arcade game, a doctor looks through a viewer into a 3-D image of the section of the body where the operation is taking place. The surgeon uses foot pedals to engage a stereoscopic camera, lighting and the arms, and uses hand controls to maneuver the mechanical arms with technical precision beyond even the steadiest hand. Doctors can dissect and extract organs without the patient losing much blood or damaging tissue. For thoracic surgeries, doctors don’t always have to open up the chest. For example, with da Vinci, doctors can pierce a dime-sized hole between the ribs to access a tumor. “This is going to allow me to do things I can’t do now with the present equipment,” Schaerf said. “It’s just a little bit beyond where I can go with instrumentation.” Up to eight of the medical center’s surgeons are expected to undergo eight hours of training on the machine over the next month. Doctors there eventually hope to use the machine for pediatrics and heart surgeries. There are no plans yet to use the machine for delicate brain surgeries, officials said. Patients still have a choice of whether to use the new technology. And the robot doesn’t think on its own. “It is less invasive. We get better outcomes, and it’s a faster recovery for the patient,” said the medical center’s spokesman Dan Boyle. “It’s great. It means our patients are going to get the best care possible when they come for surgery.” In December, a surgeon used a robot to perform a hysterectomy on Lisa Stewart, 42, of Crestline, at Loma Linda University Medical Center, which has the first generation da Vinci model. “My doctor knew that I did not want to lose a lot of time from work,” Stewart said. “I was out the next day. It was a 4-hour procedure. It felt like I did a lot of crunches, like I did a normal, hard ab workout. I felt great. If I had to have a big surgery that they could do with this machine, I wouldn’t even think twice.” Dr. Kai Ihnken, a cardiothoracic surgeon at Stanford University, is hoping to get an upgraded da Vinci system to use for heart and lung surgeries. “Every day, more and more centers are doing it,” he said. “I’m very excited.” Jason Kandel, (818) 546-3306 [email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more