BMC Ranks in Top 10 Percent in Country for Multiple Specialty Usage of Robotic Technology

in Health & Medicine, News Releases, School of Medicine
March 15th, 2006

Contact: Michelle Roberts, 617-639-8491 | michelle.roberts@bmc.org

(Boston) – Boston Medical Center (BMC) has achieved significant milestones in the past six months – offering state-of-the-art, robotically assisted surgery to help patients recover more quickly after complex operations. The da Vinci™ robot is used by surgeons in three departments, making BMC among the elite hospitals in Boston and the country to mount a widespread use of robotic technology.

BMC’s Urology Department has successfully performed the first and the most robotic prostatectomy’s, nearly five-dozen to date, in the state of Massachusetts. The department is also using the technology for reconstruction of the kidney for obstruction, removal of ureteral cancer and repair of an abnormal ureter.

BMC’s Cardiothoracic Surgery Department has successfully performed the most robotic mitral valve repairs in Massachusetts, 40 cases to date. The first robotic lobectomy (removal of lung cancer) in New England was performed at BMC. The department has now performed two robotic lobectomies to date. The department also utilizes robotic-assisted surgery for procedures such as coronary bypass and repairing holes in the upper chambers of the heart, esophageal procedures and lymph node dissection.

BMC’s Ob/Gyn department recently performed its first robotic hysterectomy.

Robotically assisted surgery allows the surgeon to perform a complicated operation using minimally invasive techniques that are less traumatic for the patient; it also lowers the complication rate, according to Richard Babayan, MD, chief of Urology at BMC and professor of urology at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM).

“Boston Medical Center has always had a very aggressive approach to getting patients to recover quickly with as minimal pain as possible. We’re able to do this with robotic technology,” said Babayan.

During a procedure, the surgeon is able to see the patient three dimensionally through a two-camera system, according to Babayan. The robot is controlled by sensors, which are attached to the surgeon’s fingers. The surgeon then manipulates the hand movements of the robot to perform the desired function, eliminating tremor and enabling ambidexterity. The robot’s range of motion is more extensive than the human hand and wrist. “There is less blood loss and faster healing. We haven’t needed to transfuse blood to a single patient. Half of our patients go home the day after surgery, 90 percent go home within 48 hours,” said Babayan.

Patient cases have since increased at BMC, with patients coming from Rhode Island, New York, New Hampshire, Maine, Florida and as far away as Hawaii. Patients in need of complex surgery used to have to travel to a hospital in Connecticut for this leading edge robotic technology.

“Robotic surgery has taken the laporoscopic approach a step farther,” said Anthony Sierra, MD, medical director of Boston University Ob/Gyn Associates and assistant professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at BUSM. “It’s an aid to getting an operation done minimally invasively.”

“What would have been a six-week recovery time for one of our patients has been reduced to two weeks because we can now perform certain operations without opening up the whole chest cavity. With the da Vinci™ robot we are now able to make the next quantum leap forward in this surgical area,” said Richard Shemin, MD, chairman of Cardiothoracic Surgery at BMC and professor of cardiothoracic surgery at BUSM.

Through the robot’s assistance, a surgeon is able to make a small incision into a patient to operate rather than a larger incision. Small incisions and reduced spreading of the incision leads to less blood loss and reduced pain for the patient, according to Shemin, who has performed over 7,000 open-heart operations.

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