Robotic Surgery is Saving Lives

BATESVILLE (KAIT) When you think of robots doing skilled tasks, images of R2 D2 from Star Wars or the giant machines that assemble cars may come to mind.

But at the White River Medical center in Batesville, robotic technology is being used to save lives.

Dr. Robert Emery "People think C-3po is going to be walking up to do the surgery but really what this is is an improvement over what the surgeon already has. The surgeon uses their eyes and their hands and what this does is make them better."

This is the Davinci surgical system a robotic based machine designed to perform complex delicate surgery.

Dr. E.J. Jones "This unit would allow us to do procedures that would be difficult with the conventional laparoscopy or procedures we just couldn't do. With the convention laparoscope. "

Primarily the unit is used for urology and gynecologic procedures.

It is a maze of arms and tiny delicate tools and cameras.

Emery, "There's three arms that are controlled by the surgeons console. Of course the surgeon will only control 2 at a time. But the surgeon can switch from which of the three he wants to control so one of them can act like a retractor and be in a fixed position while he's working with the other 2."

The surgeons console is about 10 feet from the table and I asked Dr. Melton what it was like operating without actually touching the patient.

Dr. C.G. Melton, "The loss of some tactile sensation is more than adequately compensated by the increase in visual acuity 10 times greater than what we can normally see. "

The surgeon looks through an eyepiece which gives him a 3-D perspective and using the manipulators can do his work with greater delicacy with finer instruments with more control. And still feel close to his patient.

Melton, "In the middle of an operation we don't feel any disconnect with the patient at all."

I took a turn at the controls to see if I could lift the penny out of the training aid. And I found out I could do that. Of course I'm no surgeon but the doctors tell me that the advantage to the Davinci is that they have smaller incisions and a faster recovery time."

Dr. Hunter Brown, "Most procedures were done with an open incision from the umulacus up and down with an incision like this. With this procedure we make small incisions to insert the robot arms and we work through that . The hospital stay is typically overnight as opposed anywhere from to 3 to 5 days. "

The robot has only been in service for about two weeks and at the moment it is only being used for urologic and gynecological procedures. However hospital officials are hopeful that in the future Da Vinci can be used for other surgery procedures.

And here is the amazing origin of this machine. It was designed by the defense department to be used in combat. Fortunately it has been put to a more peaceful use.