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Robots navigate vascular maze

MVH first Midwest hospital with new system

Miami Valley Hospital is the first hospital in the Midwest to lay claim to an important new tool in vascular surgery: a robotic catheter system that gives surgeons — and patients — new options.

Earlier this year, Miami Valley Hospital’s parent company, Premier Health, announced it had two Magellan Robotic Catheter Systems. The machines allow control of a catheter for intravascular procedures, including lifesaving surgery on a maze of arteries and veins.

Vascular surgeons act to remove blockages in arteries, blockages that may lead to swelling or aneurysms. Such surgery can restore smooth blood flow, ending pain, soreness, non-healing ulcers or a host of other problems.

What Magellan offers is greater control and precision, according to doctors. With the U.S. Food & Drug Administration approving the system, surgeons sit at a station controlling a catheter or flexible tube, navigating twisting arteries.

“In the past, we relied on catheters that were pre-formed,” said Dr. John Matsuura, a Wright State Physicians professor of surgery. “So you have to go up, and hopefully you can engage the artery and pass the wire down.”

With Magellan, control is greater.

“The best analogy: When you’re driving on a road that’s kind of curvy like this, rather than a bumper car and you just push the gas, bumping into the wall, you now have a steering wheel,” Matsuura said. “You can follow the road. That’s what this is all about.”

That means quicker, less invasive surgeries, less radiation exposure for patients under X-ray machines.

“It’s less trauma, shorter (surgery) times,” said Matsuura, who is also chief of the Wright State Physicians division of vascular surgery.

A donation by the Robert H. Brethen Foundation made the technology possible, Premier said. One Magellan system will be used for medical procedures while another will be used for training in Miami Valley’s Brethen Center for Surgical Advancement in Robotics and Minimally Invasive Surgery. The hospital opened the center more than a year ago.

Training with the system will be used on donated cadavers, giving medical students a more realistic experience than a computer simulation, said Robert Bowman, Miami Valley’s vice president of operations.

“We can turn the lights off, we can bring the cadaver in,” Bowman said. “We’ll have 15 or 20 medical students, residents, in here, four or five attending physicians, different specialists in here, all doing their part.”

Word of the system has spread. Other universities and hospitals are calling Premier, inquiring about Magellan training, said Miami Valley spokeswoman Nancy Thickel.

Bowman demonstrated the use of the system with a computer simulation, not touching a cadaver. He sat at a controller as his manipulations were shown on a nearby wall-mounted high-definition monitor. The system gives even non-surgeons ample control and precision, he said.

“Not bad, eh?” said Bowman, a former nurse. “What can I say?”

Premier also invested in a dual system, so that attending physicians can guide students on a similar “master” machine.

“Basically, it’s like driver’s ed,” Bowman said.

The control offers options in cancer and gynecological surgeries, as well.

The training machines in the center are tools that are not readily available elsewhere in the Midwest, preparing students “for what’s to come,” Bowman said.

“That’s really the amazing thing that we’re able to do here at the Brethen Center,” he said.

Brethen’s contribution covered the center and one of the Magellan robotics machines in the center. Just one machine in the center — a relatively early DaVinci robotics system — cost $1.8 million.

“That was our first system,” Thickel said of DaVinci. “Miami Valley was the first to bring robotics surgery to the Dayton area.”

Premier offers robotic surgery at Miami Valley, Good Samaritan Hospital, Upper Valley Medical Center and Atrium in Middletown.

“We have four robots here,” Bowman said, referring to Miami Valley. “Most days, they stay busy.”

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