[Re-published by permission of Starkville Daily News. Original publication date: November 11, 2012]


robotic_docAn OCH Regional Medical Center doctor performed the hospital’s first — and the region’s first — robotic general surgery on Nov. 2.

The Da Vinci SI robot, nicknamed “Jack” in an OCH promotional contest, allows surgeons to remotely control three mechanical arms and a camera, and it was installed in May. Daniel Smith, a surgeon who practices with OCH General Surgery Associates and the Center for Breast Health and Imaging, said surgeons have performed several gynecological and urological surgeries with the robot since May, but he performed the region’s first Da Vinci SI general surgery.

General surgeons primarily focus on abdominal problems, Smith said, but the term was once a catch-all term for surgeons with knowledge of a broad spectrum of surgeries, as opposed to a specialty like gynecology or urology.

“Nowadays, the general surgeon does things no one else does,” Smith said. “General surgeons have been kind of slow to adopt this (robotic) technology. It’s starting to catch on in other regions and other states. It’s catching on in Jackson right now; that’s where I was trained and exposed to this initially.”

Smith completed his general surgery residency at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in June, and he joined OCH’s staff in August. His patient was Karla Murphy, an Ackerman resident in need of a cholecystectomy, or gallbladder removal.

“I had only heard about robotic surgery once before, when a lady I work with had a hysterectomy,” Morgan said. “Dr. Smith told me about how the robotic surgery resulted in less pain and a faster recovery, and I was sold.  He told me I could go back to work on Monday, and I did. Friday morning, I came in at 5:30 a.m. and was headed home by 2:30 p.m. that afternoon. I was very thankful for that, because I prefer to sleep in my own bed.”

Smith said gallbladder removal is already a common outpatient procedure even without robotic aid, but the Da Vinci SI does much to reduce pain and to reduce the time patients spend in the hospital after larger operations.

“The robot adds the ability to see things closer and in much finer detail,” Smith said. “That, in the long run, should reduce complications in the operating room.”

Morgan said the gallbladder surgery is her first surgery ever, but she was pleased with the speed of her recovery.

“I was sore until about the third day, but I would recommend the robotic surgery to anyone,” Morgan said. “I have two kids and a husband to care for, and life doesn’t stop just because you had surgery. You would think in a small town, the hospital would have fewer opportunities and wouldn’t be able to perform this kind of procedure, but that’s not the case.”

Smith said he expects general surgeries performed with the Da Vinci SI to accelerate, and he believes robotic surgery has strong potential for the future. The current Da Vinci SI is like a Model T Ford, he said, in that it is the first surgical robot to see widespread use, but much evolution is yet to come.

“The important thing is that OCH as a community operation is staying on the cutting edge of technology,” Smith said. “Who knows what they’re going to do next?”

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