Purchase photos

Robot begins surgery rotation at HaysMed





Hays Medical Center recently introduced the da Vinci Robotic Surgery System, which uses a minimally invasive high-tech control module to complete procedures.

Robotic surgery primarily is used for urological cases, such as removal of the prostate due to prostate cancer. The technology also can be used for select women's conditions, gynecologic cancer, colorectal cancer and general surgeries.

Dr. Larry Watts, chief medical officer at HaysMed, said the minimally invasive surgery leads to quicker recovery times and less pain due to smaller incisions.

"Typically when you have to make a big incision on an ill person, it might actually result in faulty healing," Watts said. "By making smaller incisions, people will have a better opportunity to heal and recover faster."

HaysMed is transitioning from using a laparoscope for the majority of procedures. Laparoscopic surgery also is minimally invasive and uses small incisions to insert a telescopic rod lens system that usually is connected to a camera.

Laparoscopic surgery was a stepping stone from open surgery to robotic surgery, Watts said. Robotic surgery uses small tools attached to a robotic arm. The surgeon controls the robotic arm with a computer.

"The movements from the laparoscope were not wrist-like," Watts said. "The robot mimics our normal motion."

According to the Food and Drug Administration, 50 out of 100,000 procedures using robotic technology in 2013 resulted in an injury or death. The FDA issued a warning to the company, asking for "additional corrective actions."

"There has been one recall in the past where there was a slight delay between the motion of the robot hand and the surgeon," Watts said. "That was fixed with an upgrade. With any new technology, it's only as good as the user who uses it. When we hear about an injury that occurs as a result of the technology, yes, the robot was the one who was operating, but it was still the surgeon making the decision. There's no increased risk that's not associated with any other surgery."

The da Vinci Robotic Surgery System was purchased in December and implemented in February in order to recruit newer surgeons.

"This is the way most surgeons are being trained now, so over time the robot will take over as surgical preference," Watts said. "We wouldn't be able to recruit new surgeons without purchasing this technology."

Compared to the laparoscope, the learning curve involved in robotic surgery is much smaller.

"The laparoscope sometimes took months to learn," Watts said, "and robotics can be learned in weeks or a couple months. Because it simulates the normal movements of your hands, you learn the technology much faster."

HaysMed is in the process of bringing in new technology in order to make health care more accessible in western Kansas, and the da Vinci Surgical System was necessary to ensure residents wouldn't have to travel far to receive surgeries.

"What we hope to do by adding the robot is similar to a lot of things we do here," Watts said. "It's just one more technology we're adding so people don't have to leave western Kansas for their health issues."