Dual-console da Vinci surgical robot debuts at University Hospital

Thursday, January 27, 2011 | 5:57 p.m. CST; updated 7:44 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 27, 2011

COLUMBIA — Last week, two patients at University Hospital underwent surgery. In direct contact with the patients was not a surgeon, though — it was a surgical robot. 

The two operations were the first transoral robotic surgeries at University Hospital, due to the addition of the dual-console da Vinci Surgical System.

Dr. Jerry Rogers, chair of the Department of Surgery at MU Health Care, was present with two other surgeons from University Hospital to demonstrate the surgical system Thursday in the hospital’s simulation lab.

“We’re just at the beginning of this,” Rogers said. “It’s a significant addition not just for our program but for the whole mid-Missouri area." 

The da Vinci Surgical Systems, named after Leonardo da Vinci, allow surgeons to operate through tiny holes in the body instead of a large, open incision.

“Most importantly for the patient, it means getting out of the hospital sooner,” Rogers said.

Some patients are able to go home the day after their surgery with da Vinci systems, whereas pain from open procedures can keep them in the hospital longer.

The da Vinci Surgical System is not the best option for every procedure, though. There are no indications trauma surgery is suited for the robotic system, Rogers said.

Surgeries best suited for the systems include general surgery, urologic and prostate surgery, cardiac and non-cardiac thoracic surgery, oncology, gastrointestinal surgery, otolaryngology and colorectal surgery, according to the news release.

The minimally invasive surgeries performed by da Vinci systems lead to many benefits for patients undergoing surgery, including: smaller incisions, minimal scarring, shorter hospital stays, less blood loss, a reduced risk of infection and quicker return to daily activities, according to a MU Health Care news release.

Rogers said the surgeries result in “significantly less pain because the incisions are smaller.”

Although the tiny robotic clasps are in direct contact with the patient, a surgeon controls the movement of the robot at all times.

It only takes a short demonstration of the da Vinci Surgical System to see the impact it can have on procedures. The two small, robotic clips work together. One clip makes room for the other to operate more effectively.

Dr. Jeff Jorgensen is a head and neck surgeon at the MU Health Center who used the system for the first time last week. He performed surgery on a patient with cancer of the tonsil and another with cancer of the palette.

“I think things went very smoothly,” he said of the procedures. “It (the dual-console surgical system) gives you a lot more range of motion.”

The University of Missouri Board of Curators approved the $3.2 million investment for the dual-console surgical system on Dec. 10. The single-console da Vinci surgical robot arrived in mid-Missouri in 2008 at the Women's and Children's Hospital.

Although there are two surgeons fully trained to use systems, there are about six or seven in training, which lasts a week to 10 days. 

Those undergoing surgery with the new system, Rogers said, will not have to pay more than what they would have to pay for traditional surgery.

“It’s amazing how much technology changes in just a short period of time,” Rogers said.

Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Tracy Greever-Rice January 27, 2011 | 7:18 p.m.

Never, never, never, never, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER let a surgeon learn a new technique on you (this includes interns/residents)! It's important to ask the following questions:

1. How many surgeries has a surgeon conducted using the technique s/he is proposing to use on you? The answer should be hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands.

2. How many surgeries using this technique that s/he wants to use on you does the doc do a year, a month, a week? How many has the doc done THIS year, month, week? If s/he's not using the technique regularly, either go with a technique the doc's more familiar, comfortable and skilled in using or find a surgeon who is truly experienced and skilled using the technique being proposed (the Da Vinci in this case).

3. Ask for a report on the individual doc's (not the industry in general, or even their hospital or practice's) results including cure (or expected outcome) and 'side' effect rates, preferably disaggregated by patients with relevant characteristics similar to yours (e.g., age, type/stage of disease, gender, etc.) If the doc refuses to provide such a report, that's probably an important alarm to consider too.

While doctors surely mean well, and everybody likes to play with their new toys, YOU have to live with the results of their learning curve. Your first responsibility is to protect and take care of yourself and your family.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire January 27, 2011 | 7:37 p.m.

But you can be the first person to sue a robot!

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire January 27, 2011 | 8:18 p.m.

Remember, all carbon based units are inferior life forms and must be destroyed.

(Report Comment)

Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.