While gripping hand controls, depressing foot pedals, and watching a 3-D video display, a surgeon removed the gall bladder of a 35-year-old woman at Henrico Doctor's Hospital in Richmond, Va. The surgery occurred this summer, just one day after FDA cleared for marketing a robotic device to perform laparoscopic gall bladder and gastroesophageal reflux disease (severe heartburn) surgery.
In standard laparoscopic surgery, the surgeon, while standing over the patient, makes up to four small incisions in the abdomen through which tubes are inserted. A miniature camera at the end of one tube enables the surgeon to see into the body and guide instruments through the other tubes to perform minor surgery.
With the robotic device, called the da Vinci Surgical System, the surgeon performs the operation while sitting at a console nearby the operating table. The surgeon views a motionless image, magnified up to 20 times, of the patient and operative site on a video monitor.
From the console, the surgeon controls three robotic arms holding surgical tools above the operating table. The robotic technology translates the surgeon's movements into precise, real-time movements of the surgical instruments inside the patient. A built-in "wrist" at the end of the tools helps the surgeon to perform more exact and intricate motions without the natural tremors that accompany a surgeon's own hands.
In clinical studies, results of 113 surgeries for gall bladder or gastroesophageal reflux disease using the robotic device were found comparable in safety and effectiveness to the results in 132 patients who underwent standard laparoscopic surgery. …