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Penn State Health St. Joseph Introduces State-of-the-Art Robot for Surgery

Patients at Penn State Health St. Joseph will soon benefit from a state-of-the-art robot that allows for smaller incisions, shorter hospital stays, less blood loss, faster recovery times, less risk of infection and less medication needed for pain relief.

The hospital recently acquired a da Vinci Xi robot, and doctors are working with surgeons from Penn State Hershey Medical Center to learn how to put it to work.

The da Vinci Xi was on display in St. Joseph’s main lobby earlier this month, enabling staff members and others to see how it works and to try out the controls that surgeons use to guide robotic arms that hold precision surgical instruments.

“The surgeon is always completely in control,” explained Jamie Gretsky, a physician assistant who is a member of a robotic team helping to train St. Joseph staff. “But the robot enables surgeons to do things that they aren’t able to do with traditional laparoscopic surgery.”

The da Vinci Xi is structured with four arms mounted on an overhead suspension. Because the system can rotate to practically any position, surgeons have increased flexibility and ability.

The system also contains immersive high-definition, three-dimensional visualization that enables surgeons a clearer look.

“The camera can see a lot more than the naked eye or a regular laparoscopic camera can,” Gretsky said.

The difference between traditional laparoscopic surgery and robotic assisted surgery is profound, explained Dr. Tim Grube, a Schuylkill County gynecologist who is director of St. Joseph’s robotics program.

“There’s a world of difference,” Grube said. “There’s not even a comparison.”

The Hershey Medical Center has employed minimally invasive, robotic-assisted technology since 2009, according to Dr. Stephanie Estes, director of robotic surgery at Penn State Health, who is overseeing training at St. Joseph.

The robot will first be used at Penn State Health St. Joseph to assist in OB/GYN associated procedures, and then, as more surgeons are trained, be employed in a range of surgeries, including prostate, colorectal and general procedures.

Estes said that the robotics program at Penn State Health St. Joseph is moving ahead smoothly, as some medical staff were already familiar with the technology and others are not having any difficulty learning it.

“The expertise of the surgical staff will enable this program to move forward with no problem,” she said.

The purchase of the da Vinci Xi was made possible through a $2 million gift from Berks County philanthropists Ray and Carole Neag.

Ray Neag, a co-founder of Arrow International, now Teleflex Medical, a company that provides specialized medical devices, said he and his wife are happy to provide funding for causes that benefit the community.

“New technology is the thing that we need for our community and our friends at St. Joe’s,” said Neag, who tested out several robotic techniques. “This is a great community, and we have to keep giving to make it even stronger.”

Prior to a reception at the hospital to honor the Neags, Sister Rose Dvorak, hospital chaplain, blessed the operating room in which da Vinci Xi will be housed and thanked the Neags for their generous gift.

“Look with the eyes of gratitude, and we will find more and more to appreciate,” she said.

Penn State Health St. Joseph’s experienced surgeons and robotics-assisted surgery team now offer additional minimally invasive surgical options using the da Vinci Xi surgical system. If you have any questions or would like more information, contact 610-378-2898 or email info@thefutureofhealthcare.org

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