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Newly-renamed Mercy West debuts robotic surgery
Robotic equipment the future of surgery, surgeon says

Baptist Hospital West has become the first hospital in West Knox County with robotic surgery equipment, with the first surgery performed in January.

“It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen,” Dr. Stephanie Cross, Women’s Care Group, said.

The robotic surgery equipment is used in many surgeries, and is especially useful in gynecological surgeries, Cross said.

“We do hysterectomy, myomectomy … ovarian cyst removal, endometriosis type stuff,” she said.

“The biggest advantage from a GYN standpoint is being able to tackle cases that otherwise would require a large incision.

“We can do just about anything with it,” she added.

Robotic surgery has “big advantages” for patients as well: smaller incisions, less pain, smaller chance of infection, shorter hospital stays and quick recovery times.

“It makes a big difference,” Cross said.

Robotic surgery also is popular with cardiovascular surgeons and urologists.

“It’s pretty much revolutionized prostate surgeries. Nearly all prostate surgeries are robotic now,” Cross said.

Other doctors and surgeons also are experimenting with robotic surgeries.

“A few years from now, hopefully, we won’t see many big incisions,” Cross predicted.

Robotic surgery uses robotic arms to make incisions and to perform the surgery, but the machine is not programmed. A surgeon in the operating room operates the machine through remote controls.

“We go to the patient’s abdomen, pick the port sites based on her anatomy, make small incisions, then insert the trocars, or little tubes,” Cross said.

“Then I dock the robotic arms to those little tubes, and once you have those docked, you insert the instruments through those sleeves. … At that point, I go over to the console, and it sort of looks like a video game.

“I sit at the console and use foot pedals to control the energy sources … I can control where the camera is … and [I use] the same motions I make doing an open case,” she added.

The camera provides three-dimensional views of the patient, and the equipment allows seven degrees of motion of the instruments.

“With this, it’s unbelievable. It’s literally like having your hands in their abdomen, like you would in an open case,” Cross said.

Laparoscopic surgeries, which also are done via small incisions, have limits robotic surgeries do not: instruments often can be moved only in limited ranges and cameras do not project three-dimensional images.

According to Cross, patients are beginning to request robotic surgery.

“Patients are learning to ask for it,” she said.

“I’m getting referrals from patients who understand that’s an option,” she added.

Mercy also has unveiled new names and signs for its Metro Knoxville area hospitals, including Baptist West. Baptist West will be renamed Mercy Medical Center West by the end of February.

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