Skip to contents
In This Issue:
Patients with certain types of cervical, uterine and endometrial cancers now have more promising options for surgery, thanks to a team of doctors, nurses, technologists—and a robot.
BWH in August became the first hospital in New England to use the da Vinci robot for gynecological cancer surgery, and more than 20 patients successfully have undergone this type of robotic surgery.
“This tool allows us to perform more complex minimally invasive surgery with a wider margin of safety,” said Michael Muto, MD, of Gynecologic Oncology.
Patients who need hysterectomies that require the removal of lymph node tissue can benefit from robotic surgery. Many of these cases are radical hysterectomies, in which the cervix and all surrounding tissue are removed. With four steady arms, the memory of a computer and the guidance of a highly-skilled surgeon, the da Vinci surgical robot operates with agility capitalizing on minimal invasiveness.
“With the robot, we can accommodate non-traditional patients and ensure they receive the surgery they need,” said Colleen Feltmate, MD, of Gynecologic Oncology.
When laparoscopic surgery is not an option for patients with some cancers, the da Vinci robot provides an alternative to the traditional open hysterectomy. For these complex cases, the benefits of robotic surgery are less pain, a decreased risk of post-operative complications and a shorter hospital stay. These patients often return home the day after their surgery, rather than staying in the hospital for three to four days.
“Seeing patients who normally would stay four to five days go home the next day is incredible, and it goes to show how safe and effective robotic surgery is,” Muto said.
Robotic surgeries require collaboration among all members of the team before, during and after surgery. During the procedure, surgeons use a hand-held manipulator to control the robot’s every move while peering through binoculars at a computer console to view a 3-D image of the patient from above. Because it is controlled mechanically, the da Vinci surgical robot maintains perfect balance and its steady arms allow for the most delicate and precise dissections.
Before the surgery, nurses and surgical technologists dedicate time to ensuring the robot’s 90 pieces—including four arms, a tower with a camera, microscopes, lenses, lights and a computer control station—are fully functional.
“The robot requires extensive set-up and maintenance, but the extra effort is well worth it because it improves patients’ experience,” said Rose Passamonte, RN, who, along with certified surgical technologist Jackson Sammah, is trained to set-up the da Vinci surgical robot for gynecologic procedures. Circulator nurses Jocelyn Johnson, RN, and Patricia Sears, RN, collect and arrange robotic parts prior to surgery and maintain the supply throughout the operation.
BWH also has used the da Vinci surgical robot in cardiac, bariatric and urologic surgeries. Jim C. Hu, MD, MPH, of Urology, and his team have been instrumental in training members of the Gynecology Oncology robotic team. Now Francine Mearn, RN, nurse in charge of the OR, Passamonte, Sammah, Johnson and Sears are teaching other nurses and surgical technologists how to set-up the robot.
“I am really excited about how far we’ve come and what’s in store,” Mearn said. “We truly are a team, and none of this would be possible without everyone’s enthusiasm, dedication and willingness to try something new for our patients.”
“I was discharged from the hospital early the following afternoon…I recently got a call from Dr. Feltmate, and my pathology came back negative! I am 11 days post-op and feel like a million bucks.”
- A patient diagnosed with uterine cancer who had a robotic hysterectomy in October.