Minimally invasive procedures speed care, healing
‘Less is more’ beneficial for surgery patients returning to work
Scopes, robots, virtual reality.
That may sound like the stuff of a sci-fi flick, but these days, it’s more likely the subject of board room talk.
Employers are growing interested increasingly in minimally-invasive surgical technology that allows their employees to return to work more quickly than those who have traditional open surgery.
Baptist Health Paducah has the area's only dual-robot program with the da Vinci Surgical System. Robotic procedures include hysterectomy, treatment of throat and lung cancer, removal of the prostate and partial removal of the kidney.
The da Vinci seamlessly translates the surgeon's hand, wrist and finger movements into precise, real-time movements of surgical instruments in an area smaller than would be required for the surgeon's hands.
According to Workforce Management (July 2008), experts say such advances in medical technology are less costly in the long run, actually helping the healthcare economy by shortening or eliminating hospital stays, reducing postoperative pain and complications and allowing people to return to their normal activities – including work – sooner.
You can see why the employer, as well as the employee, favors it:
Tom has prostate cancer. With traditional surgery, he would be in the hospital four days and off work a couple of months. With the new da Vinci robotic-assisted surgery, he is hospitalized just one day and can be back at work in two to four weeks.
“While there are obvious benefits to the physician, including enhanced technology and convenience, the real benefits are to the patients,” said urologist Donald Spicer, M.D. “Many patients having prostate surgery now experience less post-operative pain and shorter hospital stays.”
Granted, the speedier recovery and fewer complications are excellent news for Tom and his family. His company, however, also benefits from improved attendance and productivity.
Learning the terms
For a decade or so, surgeons have used scopes, or laparascopes to be more exact, to operate through smaller incisions, thus earning the name laparascopic or “band aid” surgery. The technique has become standard, in select cases, for many routine surgeries formerly requiring larger incisions.
The process involves inflating the area with carbon dioxide gas, then passing the scope through a small incision of the abdominal wall and a second small incision to the affected area, such as the appendix.
You have heard many variations of the term with scope as the root, such as arthroscopy for joints and colonoscopy for the colon.
Assisted by views from a video screen, doctors have a virtual reality tour through the scope in the affected part of the body.
Cardiothoracic surgeon K. Ken Ung, M.D., now uses the robot to remove early lung cancer. Dr. Ung, assisted by cardiothoracic surgeon Carl Johnson, M.D., also is trained to perform heart surgery with the robot.
Da Vinci lung surgery requires a significantly smaller incision than other minimally invasive techniques and creates less discomfort and scarring for the patient, Dr. Ung said.
"The safety and efficacy of robotics technology has been well documented," Dr. Ung said. "Experts in our field say it is a day and night difference in terms of the surgeon's ability to visualize during surgery; and it's an exciting tool for my cardiothoracic patients, especially when we transition to robotic heart surgery, doing robotic valves or robotic bypasses."
Big returns from small surgery
From minor procedures to the more serious surgeries, emerging medical technology makes treatment less and less invasive – that’s good news for the sick and their employers.