A new robotic-assisted surgical system is paving the way for improved patient outcome statistics at the Tomball Regional Medical Center.
TRMC purchased and implemented the new robotic surgical platform in 2014. Dr. Brian Harkins, a surgeon at Tomball Regional Medical Center, said he has carried out the second highest number of general surgery cases using the new robotic platform of all surgeons in the world.
Dr. Harkins spoke at the Greater Tomball Area Chamber of Commerce luncheon Aug. 7 about the benefits and drawbacks of using robotic technology in surgery
“The robot doesn’t do surgery any more than a scalpel or hemostat does surgery,” Dr. Harkins said. “It has to be manipulated by a surgeon. This is the way the system is set up, and it doesn’t actually do anything on its own.”
During a robotic surgical procedure, a surgeon is seated at a console with an armrest and headrest and can control the precise movements of the robot with his hands, Dr. Harkins said.
The robotic technology allows for improvements in dexterity with “wristed” instruments, ergonomics of hand motions, 3-D vision and an increased possibility of single-incision surgeries, Dr. Harkins said.
“In this case where the surgeon is sewing, instead of reaching way out to do all of that, it’s right here in front of you,” Dr. Harkins said. “You see it in front of you and move your hands in a very simple motion.”
A significant portion of procedures traditionally carried out by open surgeries that may require multiple large incisions are now being conducted with the robotic platform, such as hysterectomies and prostatectomies, Dr. Harkins said.
However, one of the drawbacks of the robotic surgical platform is its financial cost, Dr. Harkins said. When first implemented several decades ago, laparoscopic surgery was a more costly option for hospitals, and now it is recognized as a standard for many procedures, he said.
The robotic surgical platform is the most advanced technique available for abdominal surgery, Dr. Harkins said.
“In the robotic world, it’s always crystal clear and magnified, and you are fully in the picture,” Dr. Harkins said. “Precision and complete control of the instrument makes a difference over time. Technology allows you to have better information in the operating room, which should lead to better decisions and better outcomes.”
TRMC plans to continue improving recovery times for patients and reduce surgical complications with the robotic platform, Dr. Harkins noted. With more funding, TRMC seeks to upgrade and implement a newer model of the robotic platform with additional surgical capabilities in the near future, he said.
“This is the current revolution in minimally-invasive surgery,” Harkins said. “It is a long awaited upgrade for laparoscopy and something we needed for awhile. I’m going to continue offering my patients at Tomball Regional Medical Center the best, the safest and most advanced care possible using the robotic platform.”