SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- We hear about advances in medicine all of the time.
Dr. Mike Janicek of Arizona Oncology is using one of them. He has performed over 1,000 surgeries using the da Vinci surgical robot.
At Scottsdale Healthcare Thompson Peak, he used the system recently to perform a hysterectomy. He was standing several feet away from the patient at a control center where he directs every movement of the machine's robotic arms.
"The actual robot is hanging over the patient," Janicek said. "It's not truly a robot in the sense that there's nothing automated. It just mimics my hand motion."
The machine has miniature cameras that produce a 3-D image of the patient, which Janicek sees by putting his eyes up to a viewer. Hand and foot controls allow him to operate the machine.
"You see more," Janicek said. "You see smaller things and have a finer motor control and can do finer type of surgeries."
Once the woman's uterus was removed, Janicek allowed me to take a look. I could see everything clearly, including the instruments that an assistant who was standing next to the patient was using to irrigate the patient.
Janicek said the da Vinci was developed by the military to allow doctors who are stateside to operate on soldiers who were injured in battle overseas. One drawback is that it used satellite technology that had a three second delay, meaning the surgeon wasn't seeing what the machine was doing in real time.
Janicek said there have been cases where doctors in London used the machine to treat patients in Paris.
Janicek said the da Vinci lets surgeons use smaller incisions on their patients, who return home two days sooner and are back to work two weeks sooner than they would have been using other methods.
Critics said the da Vinci adds about $2,000 dollars to the cost of surgery. But Janicek disagrees.
"A study of about 440 hospitals shows that the costs are the same. Once you have efficiency, and you're doing a lot of high volume, and you're good at it, then the costs come down as you're more efficient, patients go home sooner, and there's less time in the operating room."
He also disputes claims that it takes too long to do a hysterectomy using the machine.
"We've been doing this for about 50 minutes, and the uterus is out," Janicek said. "That compares to the 2 hours and 53 minutes on average that some studies say that it takes doctors to do the operation with the daVinci. "They're doing something wrong," said Janicek. "I don't know what's taking them so long to do a hysterectomy, but maybe they should come watch us do some."
When we asked him if the da Vinci surgical robot is the wave of the future, Janicek said that the future is now.
"The robot shines for the difficult cases. The oncology cases. It makes the difference between the possible and the impossible."
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