Northwest Hospital surgical wing

Robin Athey, the director of cardiac at Northwest Hospital, demonstrates how the table can move in the largest operating room in Arizona.

Randy Metcalf/The Explorer

Northwest Medical Center announces it is the first hospital in Tucson to upgrade its technology for robotic-assisted surgery to the newest da Vinci Xi system.  This system allows for “multi-quadrant” surgeries where the instruments must be able to reach from the pelvis to the chest.  What does this new capability mean for patients?  Less time under anesthesia for these surgical patients as compared to the current robotic platform, according to robotic surgeons.

Today, many complex gynecological oncology and general surgery cases require either the patient or robot to be repositioned during surgery.  This takes time.  Northwest’s investment in a robotic-system upgrade gives surgeons anatomical access from virtually any position, often eliminating the need for repositioning.

“The ability to easily access different areas of the abdomen without having to reposition the equipment or the patient is very important when we’re performing gynecological cancer surgery on our patients,” said Hank Hallum, M.D., a GYN oncologist.  “This new system provides us the flexibility to do that.”

Urologist Sanjay Ramakumar, M.D., uses the robotic platform for prostatectomies and kidney surgeries.  Dr. Ramakumar says, “The benefit of the new system will be for patients requiring surgery in multiple areas (pelvis and abdomen for instance) and difficult tumors. The surgery will be more efficient, resulting in shorter operative times.”

Another technique being used by some robotic surgeons at Northwest is single-incision surgery.  These are procedures performed with just one small incision—a tiny scar hidden in your belly button.  For many patients, this means less pain, less time in the hospital and a faster recovery.  Dr. Hallum says this type of surgery is “game-changing.”

Megan Nelson, M.D. is a general surgeon who performs single incision robotic-assisted surgery at Northwest.  She says, “With the robotic system I see a three-dimensional view with 10 times the magnification of normal vision.  This allows for a more controlled, precise operation.  The new upgraded robotic equipment allows the surgeon access to the most difficult-to-reach areas of the body, such as deep in the pelvis. It truly acts as an extension of my own eyes and hands but with greater range of motion and dexterity. It’s elegant surgery!”  Nelson uses robotic-assisted procedures for some gallbladder removal, colorectal surgery and for hernias (inguinal, abdominal or hiatal).

Northwest Medical Center is the second hospital in the state to receive the upgraded platform but the first to use it as its surgeons are already trained on the robotic equipment.

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