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MODESTO — Doctors Medical Center in Modesto has been providing da Vinci robotic-assisted surgeries since 2009. In 2016, the hospital bought an upgraded model, which surgeons demonstrated in early December.
The da Vinci systems, which cost about $2 million, can be used across a range of minimally invasive procedures, including colorectal, surgical weight loss, gallbladder removal and gynecological surgeries, the hospital said.
“This is reserved for more complicated surgeries that would be a little harder to do with regular laparoscopy,” said Dr. Sargon Bebla, who performs gynecological surgeries.
Doctors Medical Center is the first hospital in Modesto to have the advanced robotic-assisted technology. Lodi Memorial Hospital bought a da Vinci Xi in 2015.
The da Vinci Xi was on display in the hospital’s lobby on Dec. 5. Members of the public and media were invited to try it out.
Doctors also has an older generation da Vinci Si, which surgeons will continue to use.
One of the differences between the two is that the central port, where the camera went on the SI, was 10-12 millimeters, or slightly less than a half-inch. That meant it required an incision that big. The Xi is 8 millimeters, or about a third of an inch. Smaller incisions mean less blood loss Bebla said.
The camera also provides a better view for the surgeon.
“With this machine, you’re able to see all the quadrants of the belly a lot of better versus the Si, where you would position the patient to either see the pelvis or the upper body,” Bebla said.
Bebla has been performing robotic-assisted laparoscopic surgeries since 2009. He’s done more than 500 surgeries and said the advantages over traditional surgery are numerous.
The system helps doctors complete surgery in more efficient, precise manner. It’s less invasive, which leads to less blood loss. Bebla said patients typically lose between 300 and 500 cc of blood in a gynecological surgery.
“Here, if I lose an ounce, that would be a lot,” he said. “It’s literally 10 times less blood loss.”
Less pain and less blood loss leads to quicker recoveries and less time spent in the hospital.
Bebla estimates 90 percent of patients will go home either the same night or the next morning after undergoing robotic-assisted surgery. Following traditional surgery, all patients spend at least one night in the hospital.
Though the da Vinci system is touted as a surgical robot, that doesn’t mean the system does the actual surgery.
“Once all these instruments are in, then you are in total control of the instruments,” Bebla said. “In traditional laparoscopy, when we used to operate, we had an assistant help with the camera or one of the instruments. That’s no longer true. I have control of all three instruments plus the camera when I’m sitting at the console.”
Bebla said it took him about six months to learn how to perform robotic-assisted surgeries. He had to travel to a lab and observe cases before he proceeded to hands-on training. After that, he said it wasn’t that difficult to learn.
“It’s pretty intuitive,” he said. “It’s just a matter of learning the machine, which doesn’t take long. There’s games that you learn on. There’s set protocols.”
The system costs about $2 million, but Bebla believes it can be a money-saver in the long run.
“Yes, it is a little bit more expensive, the initial investment for a hospital to have a robotics program, but I think in the long run, it saves money in the sense of less admissions, less complications, better recovery,” Bebla said.