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Monday, 18 July 2011

Robotic Future: Simulator helps doctors hone their surgical skills

El Paso Times
July 18,2011

Dr. Richard Farnam uses a new tool that allows him to perform highly complicated robotic surgeries in the operating room at Las Palmas Medical Center -- without a patient.

That's because he uses a robotic surgical system called the da Vinci Skills Simulator, allowing him to practice his surgical skills in a virtual-reality training simulator before he performs the robotic surgery on a patient.

Las Palmas Medical Center has been using robotic surgery since 2008. They purchased the new Si robot system in September and the simulator in March, costing a combined $2.2 million. The simulator hooks up to the robotic surgical system, the da Vinci Si, which was developed by Intuitive Surgical and is used at Las Palmas for gynecological or urological robotic surgeries.

Officials at Las Palmas Medical Center said the simulator is part of a larger plan to help its Southwest Institute for Robotic Surgery become an epicenter for robotic surgery. If the institute becomes a premier center of robotic surgery, officials said, doctors from all over will come to El Paso to train in the latest robotic surgery.

Farnam, chairman of robotic surgery at Las Palmas Medical Center, sat at the simulator on Wednesday and, with his thumbs and index fingers, performed something similar to a surgical video game. While he worked, the 3-D high-definition training simulation was displayed in the operating room screen. If a wrong incision is made, blood comes out and the score drops. The finger tools move with all the freedom of the doctor's wrists and fingers. The lenses give a 3-D perspective and enlarged areas to work in.
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