Health Check: Robotic surgery in gynecology

Women & Infants Hospital is taking high tech to the next level by offering a new option to some of its patients.

It's called the da Vinci System -- a robot with multiple arms that under the guidance of a surgeon can perform precise surgery through a few small incisions.

Now, it can be used in gynecological cases, such as hysterectomy through a single site.

"It's been FDA-approved for just a couple of months," said Dr. Charles Rardin of Women & Infants Hospital.

Women & Infants Hospital is the first in our area to jump on board.

"Single-site is the newest technology available on the da Vinci platform that allows the instrumentation we need to get the surgery done all to travel through one single incision, rather than the four or the five or even six incisions that are sometimes required for other forms of laparoscopy or robotic surgery," Rardin said.

Rardin said it is a pretty big deal, offering patients yet another option.

Through a demonstration, quite a few instruments fit through one small incision in the belly button.

A camera on the end of a scope is first inserted through that small incision so the surgeon, who is operating the robotic arms just feet away, can see the realities of the case in 3-D.

"You can't know everything ahead of time. So, certain cases will be appropriate for single site. Certain cases will be more appropriate for the traditional robotic or multiport laparoscopic approach. So, the surgeon gets to make that decision there in real time in the operating room," Rardin said.

Whether single-site or multi-site, the robot is allowing for more precise, minimally invasive gynecological surgeries at Women & Infants Hospital.

"Two years ago, about two-thirds of hysterectomies were done through an open incision. More recently, we've been able to reduce that by more than half," Rardin said.

The first hospital in Southern New England to use the single-site technology was Charlton Memorial in Fall River for gall bladder removal.

What Women & Infants is doing is a newly approved application. Because the hospital has greatly reduced its open incision surgeries, it has recently been designated a Center of Excellence in Minimally Invasive Gynecology.