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Monday, 11 July 2011

Surgical robot tackles colorectal surgery

Deseret News
July 8, 2011

As Byron Karsch slept on the operating table at St. Mark's Hospital, Dr. John Griffin used his four arms — the number four — to remove a section of colon that plagued the 45-year-old with infection and inflammation.

Yes, four arms — courtesy of a DaVinci robot that's often used for prostate surgeries and hysterectomies, but is just coming into use for colorectal operations.

Griffin was the first Utah surgeon to employ robotics for such a surgery when, in October, he removed a section of Bob Bayer's colon that was an early-stage colon cancer. Since then, he's used the robot for about 10 colorectal surgeries. Two other Utah colorectal surgeons, both in Utah County, have also begun exploring its utility.

Karsch's surgery was actually a hybrid between a robotic operation and a laparoscopic one. There are strengths to both methods, Griffin said, and he alternated between the two surgical methods as needed as he went along. For Karsch, he did the early prep work and the closing both laparoscopically, rather than robotically.

In robotic surgery, the surgeon sits at a console a few feet away from the operating table where a patient has small incisions cut in his abdomen to serve as portals through which the instruments will be fed. The surgeon controls the robot's four arms with thumb and forefinger. His feet engage pedals which control some additional functions, such as cauterizing vessels to control bleeding.

Griffin watches what he's doing in 3-D through a pair of lenses right in front of him, while the other members of the operating team are with the patient.

Griffin said he doesn't use the robot at all in some cases, but he's apt to employ it in areas where he is operating deep in the pelvis or in especially tight areas.
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