Robot surgery brings high-tech care to Newaygo County
This past summer, I had the privilege of performing the first robotic surgery at Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial. More Gerber Memorial physicians are getting trained on our DaVinci robot, and our experience using high-tech tools to perform surgeries is another sign that Gerber Memorial is investing in treatment that helps improve the quality of care for our patients.
For the surgeon, the biggest advantage of the DaVinci robot is visualization and operative accuracy. The three-dimensional view allows surgeons to be precise in a way we’ve never been in standard laparoscopy, surgeries that use small incisions. Surgeons are also less likely to be tired during longer, more complex surgeries, which can improve the safety of the procedures.
And because of the design of the instruments, I found that I could do more intricate surgeries just like I would with a big, open incision, but with the benefits of a minimally-invasive approach.
In population studies, minimally invasive surgery using the DaVinci robot has consistently shown improvements in recovery time, shorter admission, shorter return to baseline functioning, and significantly lower complication rates.
In hernias specifically, patients experience a lower rate of postoperative infections.
Because the robot is designed to move around the entry point through the abdominal wall, we see less trauma to the abdominal tissues compared to open techniques and compared to traditional laparoscopy.
Less trauma at the incision area means less pain after the surgery. Combined with nerve blocks that our anesthesia team uses, patients are using less narcotics after their surgeries. Some patients have even told me they use none at all! And in light of our national opioid epidemic, a surgical method that can cut the use of narcotics will benefit our community as a whole.
As someone who came from a Nebraska community very similar to Newaygo County, I know what it’s like for our patients to want to get back to work as soon as possible. Robotic surgery means faster recovery times, which means patients can get back to work quicker, with fewer lost work days.
Here’s what I always tell patients about this new technology: The robot does only what I tell it to do. I have total control. The robot is not plug-and-play. As the surgeon, I make decisions and adapt the surgery because everyone’s anatomy is different.
The DaVinci robot is seeing more use beyond just scheduled, elective surgeries. Physicians are using it in emergency surgeries, from removing gallbladders to appendectomies to repairing perforated ulcers.
Having the DaVinci robot and physicians trained in performing minimally invasive surgeries means Newaygo County now has the kind of cutting-edge medical technology that we used to find only in larger cities.
Dr. Erich Schafer, Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial, general surgery
For more information, contact general surgery at the Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial Multispecialty Clinic: 231.924.4200.
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