It sounds like something out of a science fiction movie: robots helping doctors. But it's quite a reality at Avera McKennan.
You wouldn't think it at first glance, but Deb Erdahl is just 2 weeks removed from gallbladder surgery.
"It went great! You come in and get prepped up, they walk you to the OR And the next thing you know you're home." Said Erdahl.
Deb's surgery and recovery was sped up thanks to Dr. Brad Thaemert with the Surgical Institute of South Dakota and the latest in medical technology: robotic surgery
"More and more surgeons are starting to get trained across the country so it's starting to take off." Said Dr. Thaemert.
Dr. Thaemert was one of the first in the region to use robots in the operating room. Now, it's not the robot doing the surgery, it's still Dr. Thaemert at the controls. The robot just gives him a closer, clearer look inside and more precision when making cuts.
"It makes you feel like you're operating like normal, right handed and left handed, which is something you don't have when you do it purely laparoscopically. Your hands are often crossed, the robot takes that away and makes it a simpler procedure." Said Dr. Thaemert.
Gallbladders used to be removed through open surgery, that required a hospital stay afterwards. Then came laparoscopy, which still required 3-4 incisions, but with this procedure everything goes through one hole.
"Everything goes through the belly button so there are no other incisions the hole surgery is done through the belly button." Said Dr. Thaemert.
Doing surgery this way does take a little longer but benefits both the doctor and patient. Robotic surgery has shown to have fewer complications, faster recoveries, and patients don't have that permanent reminder left on their stomach.
"The real benefit for the patient is it's a relatively scar-less surgery once we're done. Also there's potentially less pain than with the multi incisions that a patient might have with a regular minimally invasive surgery." Said Dr. Thaemert.
"I just basically had a little bit of gauze over my belly button where they went in with the robot and that was it." Said Erdahl.
Deb was back at work just one week after surgery and says she feels better every single day.
"When this is all healed it will look like a normal belly button you still have a little swelling here but that will go down over the next few weeks." Said Dr. Thaemert.
Surgeons are using the robot exclusively on gallbladders while they continue to get comfortable with the technology but the door to other surgical possibilities is just starting to open.
"The FDA has only approved it for gallbladder surgery for now, but we're hoping to do heart surgeries, or nissen funduplications, and some gynecologic surgery will be done with single incision robotics here at Avera in the future, that's the plan." Said Dr. Thaemert.
So when it comes to your next surgery, you can rest easy knowing that doctors at Avera are always on the forefront of technology and using it to improve the quality of care for each and every patient.
In the past, patients had to qualify for single incision surgeries, but with the robot anyone, obese, thin, or those with prior surgeries can qualify.
For more information about robotic gallbladder surgery just call 877-AT-AVERA.