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The new surgical assistant at the University of North Carolina Hospitals arrived in February sporting three arms, a computerized brain and a glowing track record in helping to repair heart valves, remove cancerous prostates, bypass blocked coronary arteries and perform gastric bypass operations for morbid obesity.

The new arrival is a robotic machine, the da Vinci Surgical System, manufactured by Intuitive Surgical. UNC currently is the only gynecological oncology program in the Southeast that is using it.

The robot has been used successfully at UNC for prostate removal surgery; for hysterectomies for endometrial and cervical cancers; and for pediatric gallbladder removal and stomach surgery to prevent gastric reflux.

The robotic system gained federal government approval for gynecological use in April.

"We've found the robotic operation to be more precise than conventional surgery, and it allows a patient to return to normal activities much more quickly, with a shorter hospital stay. We also found a reduced use of pain medications after robotic surgery, with fewer complications," said Dr. John F. Boggess, gynecological oncologist, assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at UNC's School of Medicine and a member of the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Boggess is the first physician statewide to be certified to perform gynecological procedures with the robotic system.

In robotic-assisted surgery, the da Vinci robot is an extension of the surgeon's hands in a way not previously possible with minimally invasive surgery via laparoscopy, he said.

"And that's the key to its success," Boggess added. "The robot takes us a big step beyond traditional laparoscopy. It allows us to operate more naturally, the way we do in open surgeries, but still preserve a minimally invasive approach with small incisions."

As in laparoscopy, robotic surgery involves small incisions of one-fourth to three-fourths
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Source:American College of Physicians


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