Posted by: getthenac | April 14, 2010


From Leslie Hast

Photographer Susan Urmy and I just got to observe a robotic prostate surgery performed by Joseph Smith, M.D. I’m working on a feature for the Reporter about all the robotic surgeries we do here at VUMC (everything from pancretectomy to gastric bypass to skull base surgery). Dr. Smith was actually participating in the World Robotic Symposium and webcasting the surgery live around the globe, but this was our opportunity to see the da Vinci Surgical System in action. I’ll take any chance to get away from my desk, put on scrubs and see something cool!

The da Vinci consists of three parts:  a large console where the surgeon sits to operate the controls, an information tower that processes the data, and a huge patient cart with four arms that enter the patient and perform the surgeon’s movements.

The robot never does anything that the surgeon doesn’t tell it to do. What it does do is allow the surgeon to make very precise movements in a very small space. Here’s a video showing the da Vinci arms making origami. The last shot shows that the folded crane is smaller than a penny!

I got to look into the surgeon’s console to see the “true binocular 3D vision” that everyone has been raving about, and it really is incredible. I haven’t peered into many abdominal cavities, but it seemed like what was on that screen would be just like looking at the actual patient.

I have many interviews scheduled over the next few weeks to talk with different surgeons about the pros and cons of robotics and what it’s like to touch a machine rather than the patient. I’ll keep you posted!


  1. Thanks for sharing this story, Leslie. Dr. Smith is truly a rock star in urologic surgery. His team is a major reason why we have such a strong prostate cancer program here at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. We see more prostate cancers than any other type of malignancy. Looking forward to seeing your work!

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