Springfield’s two downtown hospitals — which actively compete for patients and the favor of doctors — both have acquired the newest version of a robotic surgical system that hospital officials say will help physicians provide better experiences for patients. Springfield doctors say the da Vinci Surgical Systems now in place at St. John’s Hospital and Memorial Medical Center will lead to benefits such as shorter hospital stays, faster recoveries and less pain after surgery.
Springfield’s two downtown hospitals — which actively compete for patients and the favor of doctors — both have acquired the newest version of a robotic surgical system that hospital officials say will help physicians provide better experiences for patients.
Evidence is inconclusive on whether robotic procedures are more effective. One study suggests that robotic-surgery patients have unrealistic expectations because of all the hype that can surround the technology, so they are more likely to be dissatisfied afterward.
But Springfield doctors say the da Vinci Surgical Systems now in place at St. John’s Hospital and Memorial Medical Center will lead to benefits such as shorter hospital stays, faster recoveries and less pain after surgery.
They say the technology also will attract even more patients and medical specialists to Springfield and raise the two hospitals’ stature.
“This is just another piece in the puzzle that substantiates their reputation in the U.S.,” said Dr. Bradley Schwartz, director for laparoscopy and endourology at Springfield’s Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. “I don’t know how anyone could say this was anything other than awesome.”
St. John’s first purchased a da Vinci system in 2004 for $1.2 million, and doctors have used it on more than 300 patients.
The hospital spent more than $2 million for the latest da Vinci model, installed last week. This version includes additional equipment that allows for easier training of surgical residents. St. John’s is only the third hospital in the country and first in the Midwest to buy such a “dual-console” system, St. John’s spokesman Brian Reardon said.
Memorial paid $1.73 million for its da Vinci system, which also was installed last week. This is the first time Memorial has acquired the technology. Its system doesn’t include the additional equipment geared for teaching surgeons-in-training.
Da Vinci systems first received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2000. The system uses robotic arms fitted with thin metal tubes that extend inside the body through tiny incisions.
The robot can make it easier for doctors to perform intricate surgeries because of the dexterity of the robot arms and the magnification provided through viewing consoles, where surgeons sit while working the instruments a few feet away from their patients.
The da Vinci robot, manufactured by Intuitive Surgical Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., often is used to remove cancerous prostate glands in men. It also is used for other urological, pelvic and gynecological procedures and is beginning to be used in open-heart surgeries.
The federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality said in a report in 2008 that it is unknown whether robot-assisted prostate surgery is better or worse than other methods because of a lack of scientific studies.
Dr. David Lieber, a Springfield Clinic urologist with extensive training on da Vinci systems, said that, compared with traditional open surgeries and laparoscopic procedures, the “clinical outcomes” for prostate patients who receive da Vinci procedures are equal.
Those outcomes involve the procedures’ ability to preserve nerves, maintain urinary function and remove cancerous tissue, Lieber said.
Da Vinci procedures often result in less post-operative pain than traditional surgical procedures, and patients recover quicker, he said.
Schwartz said studies of da Vinci systems in kidney surgeries are “pretty compelling” in showing that doctors can be at least as effective, and sometimes more effective, in removing cancer.
Many procedures with the da Vinci result in less blood loss, take less time and result in fewer complications, he said.
Da Vinci technology is “absolutely incredible” and “provides patients with the ultimate level of service,” he said. “The outcomes are clearly not worse.”
St. John’s chief executive Bob Ritz said in a news release, “Our decision to upgrade to the latest system underscores our ongoing dedication to provide better outcomes for our patients.”
A Memorial news release said, “Benefits for patients who undergo a da Vinci procedure include the potential for significantly less post-operative pain, a shorter hospital stay, a faster return to normal daily activities and better clinical outcomes.”
Dr. Mark Weaver, the chief medical officer for Memorial Health System — the parent of Memorial Medical Center — said the technology is expensive but will end up paying for itself through shorter hospital stays.
He said surgeons on Memorial’s staff wanted the hospital to buy the system, but Memorial studied the technology first.
To ensure safety, he said Memorial is making sure surgeons are well-trained on the da Vinci and monitored as they begin to use the system on patients.
St. John’s and Memorial officials said patients and insurance companies won’t be charged more for surgical procedures that use da Vinci systems and the cost of the equipment won’t be passed on in the form of overall higher hospital charges.
Weaver said Springfield has enough surgical cases to justify having two da Vinci systems.
He noted that Memorial doesn’t provide all the pediatric services St. John’s offers, while Memorial offers specialized services for burn patients and St. John’s does not.
Dean Olsen can be reached at (217) 788-1543 or firstname.lastname@example.org.