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Health & Hospitals

DEC 20 - Da Vinci Robotic System at St. Joseph/Candler Hospital

By Catherine Rendón
SBJ Staff

In 2007 St. Joseph/Candler’s acquired the da Vinci surgical system from Intuitive Surgical. Since 2008 surgeons at Candler Hospital have been using the da Vinci robotic system – a high tech computer-enhanced system for specialized surgeries.

The da Vinci system fits under the category of minimally invasive surgery (MIS) that is redefining the field of surgery. To date, Candler has the most experienced da Vinci surgeons in the region. The main procedures performed with the da Vinci in the Lowcountry are prostatectomy and uro-gynecology.

Dr. John W. Coursey, formerly an army surgeon and chief of urology at Fort Campbell, Ky., moved to Savannah three years ago with his wife. In 2007 Dr. Coursey went to Houston, Texas HQs of Intuitive Surgical to train on the da Vinci and become familiar with the procedures. Dr. Coursey explained that there is more preparation and time needed for a procedure with the da Vinci since it involves a lot of set-up than traditional surgery. This includes calibrating the robot and making sure it is sterile. A specialized team of nurses and operating room technicians also help with the operation.

Dr. Coursey sees the da Vinci as an extension of a surgeon’s hand. The robotic arms mimic the surgeon’s hand motion. Dr. Coursey especially enjoys the visualization since the da Vinci offers a console for 3-D vision and magnifies the area to be worked on up to 10 times. Dr. Coursey had a lot of experience in laparascopic surgery and feels the da Vinci is a logical extension of the same sort of work and skill set.

One in six men in the U.S. will get prostate cancer. Dr. Coursey performs mostly prostatectomies, which involves removing prostates with cancer. He says that two-thirds of all prostatectomies are being done robotically. “We make the same maneuvers on the inside,” Dr. Coursey said of traditional surgery that makes large incisions. “The recovery is half, scarring is less and patients can return to full activity in two and a half weeks as opposed to six,” he added.

Dr. Coursey gets referrals from the Lowcountry and has had patients come from as far as the Virgin Islands for an operation. The da Vinci system is becoming a new standard not only for prostate surgery, but also kidney surgery and cervical and uterine cancer, uterine fibroids, endometriosis and uterine prolapse. The number of operations performed with the da Vinci at Candler has tripled since 2008 and gone from 43 in that year to 136 in 2010.

Most insurance cover the cost of an operation with the da Vinci system. Although you spend less time in hospital, it is more expensive in terms of time spent in surgery. Dr. Coursey feels that the da Vinci system will become a standard operation of care and that more and more hospitals will offer this type of surgery in the future.

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