Robotic surgery eases the pain

When Chuck Elsey was diagnosed six years ago with early-stage prostate cancer, he looked for the fastest, most efficient procedure to get healthy and back on his feet.

In fact, he wanted to have a prostatectomy as an outpatient procedure. His doctor laughed — politely — at the suggestion. But he signed off on a procedure that allowed Elsey, Chairman of the Governing Board of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Flower Mound, to experience the latest in surgical technology, as his procedure was performed with the advanced da Vinci Surgical System.

“It was cool,” Elsey said. “I actually had a prostatectomy on an outpatient basis, which is unheard of — it’s usually at least a two-day hospital stay with conventional surgery. I had surgery at 7 o’clock in the morning, and I was home eating dinner with my wife at 6 o’clock that night.”

Elsey would become instrumental in bringing the system to his Flower Mound hospital. THPH Flower Mound acquired one of the systems in April, and procedures ranging from colon-rectal to urological to gynecological to gastric and more have been performed with it for several weeks.

Dubbed “robotic surgery,” the da Vinci system looks like nothing else in an operating room.

“It’s a pretty good-sized machine with six arms, not all of which are always used, that hover over the patient,” said Barry Howell, director of marketing and business development for the hospital.

“It has a stunning high-definition, 3D viewer that magnifies what the surgeons are looking at. There’s a separate component which is the console, off to the side, where the surgeon sits and looks into that 3D, HD viewer. The hand controls are just underneath that viewer, and whatever hand movements the surgeon makes, that’s what the arms do,” he said.

Photos and videos can be viewed at, which also has more information about the machine and the procedures performed with it.

Traditional, scalpel-in-hand surgery is limited by the size of a surgeon’s hands and instruments. In order to reach the area to be treated, a surgeon had to make an incision large enough for a human hand to fit into and move around. Laparoscopic surgery made it possible for some procedures to be done with tools much smaller than a human hand. The da Vinci system takes that even further, Elsey said.

“Da Vinci is the next step in the development of laparoscopic surgery. Not only does it only require small incisions, it gives the surgeon the ability to be more precise. Also, the blood loss is often significantly less than in laparoscopic surgeries,” he said.

Howell said the arms have the advantage of never making a false move.

“The surgeon’s in complete control, and there are many safety measures that are built into the equipment,” he said. “There have been hundreds of thousands of procedures that have been performed with this device worldwide.”

Smaller cuts mean less bleeding and less chance of infection, two factors which led to Elsey going home the same day he had his procedure.

“I’m not saying everyone can do that, but I think it’s going to cut hospital stays by up to 50 percent,” Elsey said. “The incisions are smaller, it’s more precise, it’s less invasive and there’s a lot less bleeding, which is really important.”

There have been several generations of the da Vinci system, Howell said, and the machine at Texas Health Presbyterian Flower Mound is the latest and greatest, featuring single-site incisions.

That means procedures such as hysterectomies, which traditionally required a relatively large incision of several inches, can be performed by the latest da Vinci system through a single incision the size of a dime.

“You’re not cutting muscle, there’s hardly any blood loss at all,” Howell said. “It’s a lot less painful for the patient, shorter hospital stay, less chance of infection and quicker getting back to your life.”

It’s up to the surgeon to decide whether the da Vinci system is the best option for any given patient, Howell said.

Howell said that surgeons at other hospitals are already using the da Vinci system for heart surgeries, and that ENT (ear, nose and throat) surgeons are also interested in possible applications for the system.

Elsey notes that since his hospital’s surgeons began performing procedures with the da Vinci system, they have been “raving” about the results.

Howell added, “It’s a great thing for our community to have the technology here, so people don’t have to go to Dallas or Fort Worth to receive this advanced technology.”

Learn more at


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