Adventist Health System has always stayed on the cutting edge of medicine, dating back to the 19th century when doctors employed by the company championed the dangers of smoking and the health benefits of a little fresh air.
Now the company’s newest facility, Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel, is staying ahead of the curve once again with an advanced robotic surgery system that is expected to reduce recovery times with the most precise surgeries available.
It’s called the da Vinci Surgical System SI, and the hospital at 2600 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. was expected to use it for the first time Monday. When it’s fully activated, it almost looks like a menacing mechanical spider in the operating room. But the da Vinci has the agility and dexterity beyond any human surgeon that will reduce blood loss, pain, scars and complications from all kinds of surgery ranging from prostate operations to intestinal resections.
“Basically, it does a much more exact surgery,” said Gill Green, director of surgical services at Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel. “And with it, you avoid the complications.”
Surgery teams at the 83-bed hospital spent weeks training on the system ahead of their first operation on Monday. They learned not only how to prep a patient for the da Vinci, but also how to use its 3-D remote control that gives the surgeon a view he would struggle to see in a traditional operation. It takes laparoscopic surgery to a whole new level, said Mary Brady, Wesley Chapel’s chief nursing officer.
“Being a robot, the arm pieces are much smaller, and have much more room to work,” she said. “When the surgeon looks into the controller, his screen magnifies everything 10 times. And even if his hands are trembling a bit when he’s working the system, the robot arms are always working in a smooth motion.”
Some patients fear robotic surgery because they think a robot is doing the work.
Like many robotic systems, a surgeon directs the da Vinci controls, using its tools to make surgery less invasive.
“It works for many different types of surgery, but we don’t have to use it if someone doesn’t want it,” Brady said. “There are other alternatives as well, and that’s something that is discussed between the physician and the patient on how they want to proceed.”
Few hospitals are using the da Vinci system in the Tampa Bay area, but they do include Pasco Regional Medical Center in Dade City and St. Joseph’s Hospital-North in northern Hillsborough County.
But it is a steep investment. Florida Hospital wouldn’t say what they paid for the device, but prices can run as high as $1.75 million, according to the undergraduate science journal, the Journal of Young Investigators.
Yet, it’s an investment worth making if it can reduce the complications involved in various types of surgery.
“It’s a continuation of our vision from the very beginning that we would have state-of-the-art technology in this hospital,” said Tracy Clouser, director of marketing for the Wesley Chapel hospital. “We make sure we have only the best in all areas where it provides patient benefits, and better patient care.”
Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel opened last October, becoming Adventist’s 22nd hospital in the state.