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Surgical technology

Capital Health’s first surgical robot joins the medical staff

EDMONTON – Capital Health’s Royal Alexandra Hospital has received a surgical robot, a new tool designed to further develop the region’s minimally invasive surgery and robotics program. The robot – the da Vinci S with high definition – is said to be the most technologically advanced surgical robot on the market today in its field.

“This robot will be in use in the operating room this fall,” says Dr. Dan Birch, Medical Director of Capital Health’s new Centre for the Advancement of Minimally Invasive Surgery (CAMIS) and Associate Professor, Surgery, at the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta.

CAMIS, which officially opens this fall, will further enhance the region’s minimally invasive surgery (MIS) program. “Surgical robots are the way of the future,” says Dr. Birch. “This will further establish Capital Health as a leader in the use of MIS, including the development of a strong robotics program.

“The robot looks a little like an octopus with four arms – one to hold the camera and three working arms to hold surgical instruments. Capital Health and the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation – thanks to donations from The Stollery Charitable Foundation and Jack and Esther Ondrack from the Edmonton area – provided the $4 million needed to purchase the robot and instruments, and to retro-fit an operating room at the Royal Alex.

Initially, the robot will be used for laparascopic radical prostatectomies – a procedure that removes the prostate gland and some surrounding tissue – to treat prostate cancer.

However, it is anticipated that other surgical programs such as gynecology, pediatrics, and thoracic, cardiac, and general surgery will also look to the use of robotics in the future.

“For urology patients, the robot will reduce the risk of impotency and urinary incontinence, and improve outcomes. In addition, robot-assisted radical prostatectomy surgeries can be safely performed on obese patients, who have traditionally required open surgery,” says Dr. Mike Hobart (pictured), a urologist at the Royal Alexandra Hospital and Assistant Clinical Professor, Surgery, at the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, University of Alberta, and one of the region’s most experienced minimally invasive surgeons.

“Robot-assisted surgery allows more precise surgery in difficult areas where there is limited space in the body. It also improves the ergonomics for surgeons and still offers patients the benefits of MIS, including shorter hospital stays, less blood loss and pain, and a faster return to productive lives.”

The Urology program at the Royal Alex has one of Canada’s most experienced teams in minimally invasive urology procedures, having done more than 1,000 laparascopic prostatectomies and 500 radical nephrectomies (to treat kidney cancer) since 1999.

As a resource within CAMIS, the robot presents significant opportunities to advance regional goals of excellent patient care, conducting ground-breaking research, and providing exceptional teaching and training opportunities in MIS. CAMIS will be the first in Western Canada dedicated to the advancement of MIS.

“We’re the first site in Alberta and one of only four in Canada to have this robot,” said Dr. Hobart. “The robot, along with our expertise in minimally invasive surgery (MIS), gives us a great opportunity to establish Capital Health as a leader in the use of MIS, including robotics.”

About Capital Health
Capital Health in Edmonton is Canada’s largest health region and is affiliated with the University of Alberta, providing integrated health services to one million residents in Edmonton and the surrounding area. Capital Health acts as a referral centre to central and northern Alberta, the North and the Prairies, providing specialized services such as trauma and burn treatment, organ transplants and high-risk obstetrics.