Charleston's VA adds surgical robots to staff

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) - For the first time, Charleston's Veteran Affairs medical center has joined the elite collection of hospitals with surgical robots.

The surgical robot is a DaVinci Si.

"The motivation for this was to bring the most advanced and sophisticated care in the surgical management of cancer and reconstruction to our veterans," said Dr. Sandip Prasad, an attending staff member at the Ralph A. Johnson VA Medical Center. "A number of our surgeons perform robotic surgery at MUSC, and are now able to bring our skills over to the Charleston VA as well."

Dr. Prasad calls it the most modern surgical robot available.

"The robot allows the surgeon to see at a magnification far greater than the human eye, as well as move wristed instruments with greater dexterity that we could otherwise do," said Dr. Prasad. "The surgeon essentially has 4 hands controlling instruments rather than two, which allows for greater control and precision."

So far, the robot has performed four prostate cancer surgeries. Nationally, prostate surgery is the most common use for the robot.

"We have had four patients undergo surgery in the past 3 weeks, all of whom have been discharged in less than 24 hours after surgery," said Dr. Prasad.

Prasad says prostate surgeries usually call for 2 or more days in the hospital, but the DaVinci Si provides decreased blood loss, shorter hospital stays, less post-operative pain and quicker recovery compared with open surgery.

"The robot allows for us to perform complex surgeries through small incisions that are less than a centimeter in size," said Dr. Prasad. "We are very pleased that our veterans are able to now benefit from this technology in their care. From computerized medical records to medication and patient safety protocols, the VA Healthcare system has always provided outstanding clinical care."

The VA Medical Center currently has 2 surgeries scheduled per week for the next 2 and a half months. Dr. Prasad foresees, as the center's surgical team becomes more comfortable with the technology, the number of surgeries will rise.