A Shawnee High School student became the first patient locally to receive a new robotic gallbladder procedure, a trend her surgeon believes will become increasingly common at hospitals statewide within a few years.
Hope Hawke of Springfield had suffered from a dysfunctional gallbladder since the eighth grade. The illness often caused nausea and a biting pain that she described like being stabbed with a knife. The discomfort was often the worst a few hours after eating, and it was severe enough it kept her home on most nights and in the school nurse’s office many mornings.
But less than a month after she underwent a robotic surgery at Springfield Regional Medical Center, Hawke joked with her surgeon and showed off the thumbnail-sized scar on her abdomen.
“I forgot what it was like to not be sick,” Hawke said.
In late May, Hawke became the first patient at the hospital to receive the “single-site” gallbladder surgery, which was performed by Dr. Tedros Andom. Typically, Hawke’s gallbladder surgery would be performed using manual laparoscopy, which uses multiple small incisions and a video camera to allow the surgeon to see inside the patient to perform the procedure.
But Hawke’s surgery required only a single incision near the belly-button, allowing her to recover more quickly and with less pain.
Andom performed the procedure using a robotic system that allowed him to sit at a console and observe his work with a high-definition viewer. Using just a few fingers from each hand, Andom’s movements were translated to a pair of robotic arms that allowed him to perform tiny, precise movements with the surgical instruments. At a demonstration Monday, visitors were able to use the robotic arms to unwrap pieces of chewing gum and move small coins across a table.
Many surgeons across the state still perform the more traditional laparoscopic procedures, Andom said, but he believes this type of surgery will eventually be common. Long-term studies are still being conducted to determine the benefits of the robotic procedures, but Andom said some potential benefits for patients could include a faster recovery, minimal scarring and less pain.
“Even though Springfield is a very small town, we’re still pushing toward the cutting edge of technology,” Andom said.
Hawke initially thought her pain might be caused by nerves, but it continued and finally became more severe this past year. Everything she ate seemed to make her sick, and she spent mornings at the school nurse’s office with ice packs to help ease her nausea. She felt pain for a handful of days after the surgery, but just a few weeks later felt better than she had in years. Hawke said she had no concerns about being the first local patient to receive the procedure.
“I really trusted Dr. Andom,” Hawke said. “He was confident but not cocky about it.”
The technology is an indication that Springfield Regional is striving to be one of the best hospitals in the state, said Paul Hiltz, CEO of Community Mercy Health Partners.
While the gallbladder surgery was a first, surgeons have used robotic technology for other procedures for four or five years, said Dr. Surender Neravetla, director of cardiac surgery at Springfield Regional.
The hospital’s newest device, which will be on display at the Clark County Fair on July 20, provides a higher definition video screen and includes a training simulator that allows surgeons to practice.
Many surgeons were initially skeptical about laparoscopic surgery when it became available, Andom said. But very few now perform the more invasive gallbladder surgeries that were performed in the past. Eventually, he said, the newer robotic surgeries might replace some forms of the laparoscopic procedures.
“As more and more hospitals start to do them, the trend is going to shift to doing more robotic surgery,” Andom said.
The Springfield News-Sun reporters have reported extensively on the quality of care in the area, including in-depth coverage of Springfield Regional Medical Center’s patient satisfaction scores and its efforts to become a top 100 hospital.