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Students Get Demonstration of Surgical Robots at Wheeling Hospital

Six local students go through simulation at Wheeling Hospital

Photo by Linda Comins Elizabeth McConn, a River High School sophomore, practices controlling the mechanical arms of Wheeling Hospital’s new da Vinci robotic surgical system.

WHEELING — Six area high school students got to try their hands at robotic surgery through a simulation with Wheeling Hospital’s new robots Thursday.

Wheeling Hospital began using its first da Vinci robotic surgical system last year. The hospital now has purchased two additional da Vinci systems.

High school students with interests in medicine, engineering, biology and robotics were invited to a demonstration of the new robotic devices in the hospital’s auditorium. Participating were Luke Phillips, Wheeling Park senior; Griffin Stenger, Wheeling Central Catholic senior; Chad McCool, John Marshall senior; Elizabeth McConn, River sophomore; Bailey Kinder, Martins Ferry junior; and Emily Holzopfel, Buckeye Local senior.

Surgeons at Wheeling Hospital performed 110 procedures with one robot between December and February, said Dr. Angelo Georges, chief medical officer.

That figure represents “a 70 percent growth rate over the previous rolling 12-month period,” he said.

On average, more than one procedure is being performed daily. With three robots available now, the number of robotic surgeries is expected to grow exponentially, Georges said.

Currently, five surgeons are using the da Vinci system for general surgery and specialized colorectal and gynecological prodecures. Dedicated robotic teams of nurses and technicians work with surgeons.

“We’re training more surgeons, and more specialties are going to be offered,” Georges said, adding, “Robots can get in where a person’s hands cannot.”

During a procedure, a surgeon sits at a console near the operating table and looks at a 3-D screen while using controllers to move the robot’s mechanical arms in the surgical field. An overhead monitor also shows the instruments’ movement.

The robot has a mechanical arm dedicated to the monitor and three other mechanical arms that hold surgical tools.

The system enhances a surgeon’s precision and flexibility for manipulating instruments, he said. With this device, a surgeon “is better able to see the site” during delicate and complex procedures, he added.

Compared to conventional surgery, robotic procedures result in fewer complications and fewer infections, as well as shorter hospital stays, shorter recovery times, less pain and less noticeable scarring for patients, Georges said.

Shay Anderson, the hospital’s robotic coordinator, said a woman who undergoes a robotic-assisted hysterectomy is hospitalized for only one night. Inguinal hernia repairs and gallbladder surgeries are performed on an outpatient basis with this system, she said.

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