For the Express

St. Mary’s Healthcare held a hands-on open house Friday to showcase the da Vinci Xi Surgical System — the hospital’s latest investment in robotics and minimally invasive surgery.
The hospital recently became the first in the region to adopt the innovative technology, which is equipped with four robotic arms, an advanced computer system and optical machinery.
The $1.7 million system is meant to aid surgeons with complex operations such as gynecology, urology, thoracic, cardiac, and general surgery.
Officials welcomed the public to test out the instrument Friday and experience what experts will go through behind closed hospital doors.
“We are introducing it to the community,” President and CEO Vic Giulianelli said. “It is quite an advance system. I even took it for a test drive.”
A demo model of the Xi system was put on display inside the cafeteria. The system was set up similarly to how it appears during a real operation.
Dr. Ronald Marsh, who is a general surgeon, controlled the four robotic arms or “ports,” from a device located several feet from the robot.
Physicians, staff and curious hospital guests gathered to observe the surgeon and his new toy in action. The audience eventually joined in and learned the basics of the system.
A television screen elevated on a platform broadcasted Marsh’s movement of the arms.
Marsh said the TV is used for staff who need to review what is taking place during a surgery.
At the demo, the ports were inserted inside a plastic dome meant to mimic an abdomen. Inside the plastic, four separate sections were comprised of different items that Marsh and others were picking up and moving around with the arms.
Marsh said the ports are small — only about a third of an inch — and are easy to maneuver inside a patient who is undergoing surgery.
“This is a big one for general surgery,” Marsh said. “This is a minimally invasive platform. Everything that was being done with big incisions are now being down with small incisions,” he said.
Marsh has been employed at St. Mary’s since 1991, and will be the first physician to use the new minimally invasive surgical system.
He said he has performed roughly 4,000 laparoscopic surgeries since he became a surgeon. He said the da Vinci will make the procedure less challenging.
Intuitive Surgical representative Brian Cody, who sells da Vinci products, was present for the demonstration and reviewed the public through the system. He said Marsh underwent extensive training to learn how to operate the robot. Cody said Marsh attended a lab in Maryland for three days, where he studied case operations, learned the basics of the technology and practiced on machinery.
Marsh’s first operation is scheduled in mid-August. Cody said the first five cases will be supervised by experts knowledgeable of the system.
Marsh said there are several benefits to using the advanced technology compared to conducting surgery manually.
He said with smaller incisions, the patient will experience less pain, and can heal quicker during recovery.
“Surgery is controlled trauma,” Marsh said. “Smaller incisions means less trauma and less likely for complications.”
Giulianelli said patients search for hospitals that promote these kinds of advancements in surgery.
Cody agreed, and said hospitals have a greater chance recruiting surgeons looking for minimal invasive surgical technology, too.
St. Mary’s is the 12th in the nation to adopt the system. More surgeons are training to use the technology, and Giulianelli estimates about 100 operations will take place every year.