CEDAR RAPIDS — A Cedar Rapids surgeon recently has begun deploying a new surgical robot in UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s operating room, making him among the first physicians in the nation to use the new, advanced technology for certain procedures.
Starting in September, Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa urologist Dr. Jon Rippentrop has been performing surgeries using the da Vinci Single Port SP — a robotic system that received FDA-approval for urologic surgeries this past year.
The system initially was released to a limited number of hospitals across the world — including St. Luke’s. Rippentrop’s operations are the first urologic surgeries performed using a single port robot in the state, according to St. Luke’s Hospital officials.
Rippentrop said robotic surgical systems were “revolutionary for minimally invasive surgery” when Corridor hospitals began deploying them in the early 2000s.
But the new single port system “is the way robotics are best applied for the future,” he said. “This is the next innovation in robotic surgery. “Realistically, I can see that in 10 years from now all robotic surgeries would be done through a single incision.”
While using the robotic surgical system, a surgeon seated at a remote console maneuvers surgical tools through a tiny incision in the patient with the aid of a small, flexible camera.
A prostatectomy using a da Vinci robot typically would require five or six small incisions in the patient’s abdomen to insert the surgical instruments. With a single port, the da Vinci Single Port SP can do the same operation with a single, one-inch incision.
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Rippentrop said his patients experience less pain and heal more quickly than with a traditional open procedures, which require large incisions and therefore result in longer recovery time.
“Plus, there’s a cosmetic advantage since there are fewer scars,” he said. “That’s what patients see. So there’s less memories for those folk to take home with them.”
Mercy Medical Center in Cedar Rapids and the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City also use da Vinci systems in their hospitals. For certain procedures, such as a prostatectomy, robotic surgical systems are the more commonly used method.
Both Cedar Rapids hospitals have had robotic surgical programs for more than a decade.
St. Luke’s robotic surgery program began in 2005 and since then, surgeons have performed more than 8,000 robotic procedures, according to hospital officials.
The da Vinci system was created in 2000 by Intuitive Surgical, a Silicon Valley-based company that develops and manufactures medical robotic technology.
The da Vinci Single Port SP is approved only for urologic surgeries at this time. It may be okayed for other procedures in the future.
St. Luke’s first used the single port system in September for an operation to remove a patient’s cancerous prostate. Since then, Rippentrop estimates he’s used the system fewer than a dozen times to remove cancerous prostates and cancerous kidneys.
Rippentrop said he’s always been interested in technology in the operating room. In 2004, following his residency, Rippentrop took part in a fellowship program in Berlin, Germany, to learn laparoscopic surgery, which requires a thin tube to be inserted into the abdomen through a small incision.
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Laparoscopic surgeries are physically demanding of surgeons, however, and Rippentrop jumped at the chance to help start a robotic surgical program. He said the camera and the instruments attached to the da Vinci systems have “really allowed a level of precision and ergonomic comfort.”
“Living in the age that we are, innovation keeps pushing the envelope to provide great care,” Rippentrop said.
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