St. Anthony Hospital is equipped with the latest technology and able to perform surgery with a robotic system.
The robot came to St. Anthony in May. Three doctors are trained in the procedure and regularly use it. Dr. Cindy Mosbrucker has performed more than 500 procedures, while Dr. Christopher Arroyo has done more than 60 and Dr. Linda Pai more than 15.
“I’m really excited we have a robot at St. Anthony’s,” Arroyo said.
The robot is essentially a remote control that’s operated by the surgeon, who uses a drawstick and looks through three monitors, Arroyo said. It uses a computer technology and is able to scale to motion depending on how far away the instruments are from the camera, Arroyo said.
“I think it brings the opportunity to keep patients at home during the treatment,” Arroyo said.
The demand for robotic surgery is increasing quickly, Arroyo said, and it helps that the treatment allows patients to stay in Gig Harbor for their procedure. Access to the same equipment at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma can be an issue, Arroyo said.
There are essentially three types of surgery doctors perform, Arroyo said. Traditional surgery involves an incision large enough for instruments to fit inside the body, Arroyo said. Laparoscopic surgery, in which surgeons operate outside of the body, started in the early 1990s, he said. However, it’s limited because the instruments are rigid and straight, Arroyo said.
Robotic surgery allows for surgeons to perform more complicated procedures outside the body. The robot has seven degrees of freedom and can move in all directions, Arroyo said. It’s also capable of mimicking hands, he added.
Robotic procedures run similar in time, sometimes a little bit longer, Arroyo said.
Benefits for the surgeon include performing more complicated procedures, less blood loss, better visualization and manipulation of the instruments, Arroyo said. Benefits for the patient are smaller incisions and quicker recovery time, he said.
“It is much easier with the robot than standard laparoscopic surgery,” Arroyo said.
With any surgery, there are risks. Since the robot is fairly new, there is a learning curve when doctors have to acquire a feel for the technology, Arroyo said.
The robot’s primary use is for abdomen procedures or complicated laparoscopic surgeries, Arroyo said. It is used for general surgery, gynecology, uro-gynecology or urology-related surgeries, a Franciscan Health System report stated.
Doctors go through extensive training to become qualified to use the robot. Arroyo said he visited five different states to observe and learn from various doctors.
“It was a lot of investment on my part,” he said.
At St. Joseph, there is a robot-assisted simulator with which surgeons can practice, said Scott Thompson, media relations manager for Franciscan Health System.
“It helps you keep up on basic skills,” Arroyo said.
Doctors are beginning to learn robotic surgery shortly after their formal residency, Arroyo said.
The cost for patients is very similar. Insurance usually doesn’t add a premium, Arroyo said.
Each robot costs About $1.5 million, Thompson said. Seven robots are currently in the Franciscan Health System, he said.
“I think Anthony’s was trying to serve the local community, and the robot allows us to do that,” Arroyo said.