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"Robot" Joins Operating Room Staff at St. James

May 03, 2013
Article in the Montana Standard on May 4, 2013 With its robotic arms and protruding wires, the apparatus looks like something out of a science-fiction movie. But the da Vinci Si Surgical System is 100 percent science fact and will be used by surgeons at St. James Healthcare. Hospital administrators introduced the “robot” and some of its capabilities Thursday afternoon. The machine can help surgeons perform intricate procedures on patients through few tiny incisions. Dr. John Cochran, urologist with the hospital, said he was lobbying for such a surgical tool, but didn’t expect the hospital to purchase such a state-of-the-art machine. “No one has a higher level robot than we have. We have all the bells and whistles,” Cochran said. The robot has arms and surgical clasps that have more range of motion than the human wrist. It comes with a camera that provides clear images of tissue and anatomy. There’s an additional monitor so a second surgeon can watch and assist. The surgeon views the operation by looking through a viewfinder that can magnify the image up to 10 times. The robot’s arms are manipulated through a control system operated by the surgeon’s forefingers and thumbs. “They’ve found that people who played video games growing up had more success learning to operate the machine,” Cochran said. Hospital spokesperson Linda McGillen said the da Vinci cost about $1.2 million. The tool can be used perform many procedures including prostate surgeries, hysterectomies and colorectal surgery. She said the hospital has two surgeons who will use the robot, and the hospital is expecting to get a third surgeon who also is proficient on the machine.