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Surgical technology

Vancouver General to acquire surgical robot

VANCOUVER – Vancouver General Hospital ushers in a new era of surgical innovation with the donor-funded purchase of a new, futuristic surgical robot. Made possible through a lead gift of $3 million from Jack Poole and a generous gift of $1.5 million from Jim Pattison, the leading-edge equipment – Western Canada’s first multipurpose robot – will deliver greater benefits for patients and new opportunities to develop breakthrough surgical techniques in British Columbia.

“This sophisticated robotic technology allows the surgeon to accurately work in unaccommodating, tight parts of the body, such as inside the pelvis or the chest” said Dr. Larry Goldenberg (pictured), OBC, Professor and Head, Department of Urologic Sciences, VGH and UBC and Director, Clinical Research, Prostate Centre at VGH. “The computerized robotic system brings surgery into the modern world of bits and bytes, providing our visionary researchers with an opportunity to take surgery to the ‘next level’ by fusing surgical technology with digital information from other sources, such as preoperative CT scans or MRI studies.”

The da Vinci robotic surgical system is expected to be up and running at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) – part of Vancouver Coastal Health – in the fall. During the initial three-year phase of operation, surgeons at VGH will use the robot to perform specific surgical procedures in urology, cardiac surgery and gynecology.

Robot-assisted surgery offers patients fewer surgical complications, less post-operative pain, faster recovery times, shorter hospital stays and improved health outcomes. VGH will be the sole hospital in B.C. – and only one of three in Canada – to use the highly sophisticated robotic technology.

“The new robotic technology not only bolsters the reputation of Vancouver Coastal Health and Vancouver General Hospital as a global leader and pioneer in surgical excellence, but will have a significant impact on patient care,” said Ida Goodreau, President and Chief Executive Officer of Vancouver Coastal Health. “VCH thanks the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation and its donors for funding this giant leap forward in patient care and innovation.”

The $6.5 million project includes the purchase of the da Vinci system, installation, training and the initial three-year operating costs. It will be paid for from private donations through VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation.

“Donors help to foster a new era of ‘super-specialists’ at VGH by equipping them with the most sophisticated surgical technology available, so they can pioneer new techniques and pursue research,” says Ron Dumouchelle, President & CEO, VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation. “We would like to thank Jack Poole and Jim Pattison for their vision and generosity to help lead us to the next generation of care for people from right across B.C.”

“As a prostate cancer survivor myself, I’m grateful for the care I received, and pleased to be part of this historic milestone to equip the world’s best at VGH so they can provide even better outcomes for their patients here in B.C.,” said Jack Poole.

“Robot-assisted surgery offers enhanced dexterity and precision to perform complex, delicate procedures in a minimally invasive manner. The possibilities for applications here at VGH are exciting and promising for people in B.C.,” said Dr. Guy Fradet, Head, Division of Cardiovascular Surgery, VGH and Medical Director, Cardiac Surgery, VGH and UBC Hospital.

VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation is a registered charity that raises funding for the latest, most sophisticated medical equipment, world-class research and improvements to patient care for Vancouver General Hospital, UBC Hospital, GF Strong Rehab Centre and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute. For more than 25 years, the Foundation and its donors have been a bridge between the essential healthcare that governments provide and the most advanced healthcare possible.

Robot-assisted surgery at Vancouver General Hospital

Robot-assisted surgery is a significant technological advancement and allows VGH to continue to play a leadership role in healthcare innovation for patients. Medical technology forecasters predict a role for robot-assisted surgery in operating rooms of the future. Vancouver General Hospital will be the third facility in the entire country to provide this innovative method of surgery to patients. In the first three years, five types of procedures will be performed at VGH using the new technology: three urology-related procedures; one cardiovascular surgery procedure; and one gynecology procedure.

Urology Procedures

• Radical Prostatectomy

• A surgical procedure that removes the entire prostate gland plus some surrounding tissue.

• Pyeloplasty

• An operation to remove a blockage in the tube (ureter) leading from one of the kidneys to the bladder.

• Living Donor Nephrectomy

• Removal of a kidney from a living donor for immediate transplantation into a patient in critical need.

Cardiovascular Surgery Procedure

• Mitral Valve Repair

• There are four valves within the heart; the mitral, tricuspid, aortic and pulmonic valves. Mitral valve repair is the procedure of choice for most patients with mitral regurgitation (a leaky mitral valve).

Gynecology Procedure

• Hysterectomy

• An operation to remove a woman’s uterus, or womb. In some cases, the ovaries and fallopian tubes also are removed.

Over the initial three-year trial period, it is estimated that nearly 600 patients will be treated with this leading-edge technology.

Benefits to Patients

The most important benefit of robot-assisted surgery is the improvement of patient health outcomes. These benefits to patients are numerous and include:

• Less postoperative pain and shorter hospital stays

• Faster convalescence, therefore reduced need for convalescent services (i.e., estimated recovery from radical prostatectomy is seven weeks after open surgery vs. four weeks after robot-assisted surgery. Twenty fewer days in convalescence means 15 fewer days away from work).

• Lower use of analgesics

• Fewer surgical complications

• In cases of surgeries where tissue removal is required, more accurate or at least as complete, removal of tissues. This translates into a decreased risk of progression or recurrence and increased disease-free survival.

• Access to the most advanced procedures and highly motivated personnel

• In the future, this technology may permit surgery in cases that might otherwise have been inoperable

• While the first three to five years will be focused on in-house procedures, the technology has the potential to enable tele-surgical applications, stretching the benefits to patients beyond the hospital. This will have special impact on B.C.’s rural and remote communities, benefiting patients, healthcare professionals and the system, overall.

Benefits to surgeons

• Enables much more precise surgery than ever before

• Better access to difficult to reach body cavities

• Reduced fatigue during surgery

• Opportunities to research, refine, and teach newest procedures

• Opportunities for professional growth for surgeons and their surgical teams

• Easier to learn than traditional laparoscopy

• Enhanced ability to teach by being able to show students and residents areas that are otherwise visible only to the surgeon

Benefits to the healthcare system

• The introduction of robot-assisted surgery will reinforce VGH’s position as a leading centre of surgical excellence and innovation in Canada and worldwide

• It will strengthen our ability to attract, train, and retain the “best and the brightest” clinical staff

• It will increase opportunities for VGH-initiated invention, development, and refinement of surgical solutions

• By reducing risks and recovery times associated with live kidney donation, an increase in individuals willing to participate in this procedure is anticipated

• Shorter times in hospital translate into cost avoidance – such as reduced risk of acquiring infections in the hospital, greater patient comfort, and more acute care beds available for other patients waiting for care.