Minimally Invasive Robotic Surgery at Sky Ridge Medical Center in Denver

Using robotic assistance for enhanced visualization, improved dexterity and better patient experience.

Robotic Surgery for Prostate Cancer

Darrel Denton, a 59-year-old mechanical engineer, was surprised to learn about the latest member of his surgery team for his upcoming prostatectomy (removal of the prostate). Sky Ridge's da Vinci® robot assists during surgery and allows for shorter hospital stays and quicker recovery times.

The technology is part of Sky Ridge’s robotic surgery program. Several Sky Ridge urologists are trained to use the da Vinci® S Surgical System, which is the latest, more compact model developed by Intuitive Surgical. The urologists primarily use the da Vinci robot to perform prostate cancer surgery and for reconstruction of congenital kidney obstructions.

Controlled Precision

Surgeons are not facing a threat of being replaced. Even though the robot holds the surgical tools, the surgeon is still in command throughout the entire procedure. “The robot is not doing anything we aren’t doing,” Dr. Ali Sarram, urologist, says. “It’s just translating our movements.”

The da Vinci robot has three robotic arms with attached surgical instruments and one arm that carries the camera. The surgeon sits at a computer console and looks through a three-dimensional video display to monitor the procedure. He or she manipulates the movements of the robot by using hand controls and foot pedals.

“The prostate is deep within the pelvis and difficult to access with traditional surgery,” Dr. James Fagelson says. “The 3-D monitor and robotic arms of the da Vinci allow surgeons to freely access this area and control cancer with more precision.”

Mechanical Advantages

The da Vinci® S Surgical System brings many benefits to the medical community. Although it shares similarities with laparoscopic surgery, which involves a video monitor and small incisions, the da Vinci robot has an Endowrist® that can rotate 180 degrees. This allows for a wider range of motion and more intricate suturing.

The Endowrist® instruments can perform medical procedures in smaller spaces and with greater precision and dexterity than human fingers. The system also allows for enhanced, magnified visualization.

“The biggest benefit is what it does for our patients,” Dr. Sarram says. “The da Vinci may allow for a shorter hospital stay, less blood loss, less pain, and a quicker recovery and return to normal activity. The promise of continence retention and potency also is increased.”

A Growing Medical Trend

Although robot-assisted surgery may seem a bit futuristic, it is actually rising in popularity among physicians, and its capabilities continue to expand. The first robotic prostatectomy in the United States was performed in the fall of 2000. Since then, it has become the fastest growing treatment option for prostate cancer in this country. Tens of thousands of da Vinci procedures also have been performed around the world in Europe, Asia and the Pacific Rim.

Darrel's Robotic Surgery Experience at Sky Ridge

It was supposed to be a standard, yearly physical. The results, however, led to a close encounter with a robot. Darrel Denton, a 59-year-old mechanical engineer, had received a hip replacement the previous year and wasn’t expecting anymore medical surprises. Since Denton was in his 50s, his annual exam included a Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) test, which is used to help detect prostate cancer. His PSA levels were high, and a biopsy later proved he had cancer. “I had no symptoms,” he says. “I felt fine. It was quite a shock.”

Denton, who was the first patient at Sky Ridge to undergo surgery with the da Vinci technology, says he recognizes the growing trend. He had no reservations about letting the robot lend a helping “hand” during surgery.