TAMC surgical robot helps increase patients’ quality of life

| February 10, 2012 | 0 Comments
A simulation tool is set off on the da Vinci Surgical System table for surgeons and residents to practice on.  The surgeon sits at the console and looks through two eye holes at a 3-D image of the procedure, while maneuvering the arms with two foot pedals and two hand controllers.

A simulation tool is set off on the da Vinci Surgical System table for surgeons and residents to practice on. The surgeon sits at the console and looks through two eye holes at a 3-D image of the procedure, while maneuvering the arms with two foot pedals and two hand controllers.

Story and Photos by
Stephanie Bryant
TAMC Public Affairs

HONOLULU — Two of Tripler Army Medical Center’s otolaryngologists have embraced the da Vinci Surgical System, a type of robotically assisted surgery, since May 2011.

They are reaping bountiful rewards now.

Otolaryngology is a branch of medicine and surgery that specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of ear, nose, throat, and head and neck disorders.

Lt. Col. Joseph Sniezek, chief, Otolaryngology, Department of Surgery, TAMC, and Lt. Col. Christopher Klem, chief, Head and Neck Surgery, in Otolaryngology, are excited that the robot has found its way to head and neck surgery.

Since last May, the specialists have performed about eight thyroidectomies and about a dozen transoral resection surgeries, or TORS.

“These are surgeries we are familiar with, but (now) we have a new tool,” Sniezek said. “It takes a little different thought process for how to approach it … it sort of is a fresh way to do a surgery that we do all the time, and the patients do better, so it is exciting.”

Tripler is the first Department of Defense medical treatment facility and the first hospital in the state of Hawaii to do these two types of head and neck surgeries using the robot.

One of the major advantages of using the robot to perform these surgeries is dramatically better cosmetic results.

Lt. Col. Joseph Sniezek, chief, Otolaryngology, Dept. of Surgery, TAMC, explains how to operate the controls of the da Vinci Surgical System.

Lt. Col. Joseph Sniezek, chief, Otolaryngology, Dept. of Surgery, TAMC, explains how to operate the controls of the da Vinci Surgical System.

The neck and head are difficult areas of the body to access, Sniezek explained.

“We would have to do pretty radical procedures like big incisions to open the face or splitting the jaw in half,” Sniezek explained. “The robot allows us to just use the arms of the robot and a camera placed through the mouth, a natural orifice, and then we can resect the tumor without having to split the mandible or do facial incisions.”

Sniezek added that this procedure applies to thyroidectomies, as well, because instead of removing the thryroid through the neck, in certain cases surgeons can enter through the arm pit.

For TORS, Klem said the recovery time is much quicker for the patient and typically less chemotherapy and radiation are required.

Sniezek and Klem are excited about the possibilities that this technology gives surgical specialties.

After the technology was created in the early 1990s, Sniezek said, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency became interested in supporting it because of its potential to allow surgeons to operate remotely on Soldiers wounded on the battlefield.

“You don’t have to be in the same room to control the robot,” Sniezek said. “You can be on another continent.”

In December, Klem and Sniezek started performing head and neck surgeries at Queens Medical Center in Honolulu, and one of the surgeries involved the robot.

“This is a great resource sharing agreement between Tripler and Queens that I think is a great example of the partnership between military and civilian medical resources,” Sniezek said.

Tripler and Queens use the same kind of robot to perform surgeries.

“I think it’s important to get the word out that military medicine has the same cutting edge treatment for these difficult cancers as anyone does,” Klem said.

“We are committed to staying on the cutting edge of advancements in surgical treatments, particularly for cancer therapies,” Sniezek added. “Tripler is offering the very latest in techniques and technologies that are available.”

Milestones

Tripler Army Medical Center is on the cutting edge of surgical treatments.

•TAMC is first DOD facility and first Hawaii hospital to use the robots for otolaryngology.

•Robot yields better cosmetic results, quicker recovery.

•Patient typically gets less chemotherapy and radiation.

•TAMC and Queens Medical Center are benefiting from shared resources.

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Category: Community, Health

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