Fort Sanders Regional Continues Innovations in Robotically-Assisted Surgery

Since first introducing the technology to East Tennessee in 2004, surgeons at Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center continue to pioneer new techniques and uses for robotically-assisted surgery. Fort Sanders’ da Vinci Surgical System is a laparoscopic robot that combines a surgeon’s skill with computer enhanced technology.

The treatment of endometriosis is one of the latest ways Fort Sanders’ physicians are applying robotic surgery. The precision and enhanced 3-D view of the da Vinci system allows surgeons to remove the endometrial tissue while preserving the delicate structure of the patient’s pelvis.

Physicians at Fort Sanders are also using robotic surgery for other gynecological procedures such as hysterectomies. “With the da Vinci system, slender instruments are placed through small incisions in the patirent’s abdomen,” explains Dr. Erin Saunders of Fort Sanders OB/GYN. “The surgeon sits at a console and controls the instruments in real time.”

The tiny, dime-sized incisions mean less pain, a shorter hospital stay, and a faster recovery for patients.

“Robotic surgery can be a good option for women who need to be able to return to their normal activities more quickly after surgery,” says Dr. Robert McKeown of Fort Sanders Women’s Specialists.

A faster recovery and less pain are why robotic surgery is now a tool for lung-removal surgeries at Fort Sanders. Lung cancer often required a lobectomy, the removal of at least one lobe of the lung and surrounding lymph nodes. “In a traditional lobectomy the surgeon makes a large incision in the patient’s side, the ribs are sperad, and the lobe is removed,” explains thoracic surgeon Mark Cooper. “Because of the damage to the ribs and large incision, recovery can be slow and painful.”

With the robotic system, lung surgery is less invasive. “It’s in the beginning stages of being applied to thoracic surgery,” explains Cooper. So far, he says he has seen a tremendous benefit for his patients.

That benefit has already been experienced by hundreds of urology patients who have had cancerous prostates removed at Fort Sanders since the da Vinci system debuted in 2004. Urologist Wayne Hatfield is an early pioneer of this technology. He’s proud of how the robotic surgery program at Fort Sanders has grown. “It’s been exciting to see how robotically-assisted surgery has expanded for more and more uses,” says Hatfield. “we’re also applying the da Vincie for advance surgery for kidney and bladder cancer, as well as uterine and cervical cancer. It’s truly the future of surgery.”

For information about the robotically-assisted surgery procedures available at Fort Sanders Regional and other Covenant Health hospitals, please call (865) 541-4500.

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