The robotic da Vinci Surgical System Leads a Revolution in Surgery

By Cheryl Koch, RN, BSN, MSN, CNOR
Director of Surgical Services
Methodist Richardson Medical Center

If you need proof that technology has revolutionized health care in the United States, you need look no further than the operating room. Surgeons are able to perform procedures with greater accuracy, affecting only a targeted area of tissue through incisions that are a miniscule 1 to 2 centimeters long. Robotic surgery, such as the da Vinci® Surgical System, is perhaps the greatest advancement I’ve seen in my 35 years of surgical nursing.

My areas of responsibility at Methodist Richardson Medical Center include inpatient and outpatient surgical services, the recovery room, and the med-surg nursing unit. I’ve witnessed the positive impact da Vinci is having on patients in every one of these areas. Whether a patient is a candidate for robotic surgery depends on his or her individual condition and medical situation. But I’ve seen hundreds of patients benefit from da Vinci surgery compared to traditional surgical techniques by experiencing less pain, less blood loss, fewer complications, less scarring, shorter hospital stays, and a faster return to normal daily activities in most cases.

The introduction of robotic surgery has taken my nursing career in an exciting new direction, one that I couldn’t have even imagined when I decided to pursue nursing many years ago. What is really intriguing about robotic surgery from a nursing perspective is the blending of technology with the surgeon’s expertise. The sophisticated robotics platform expands the surgeon’s capabilities, providing a minimally invasive option for several major surgeries including gynecologic, gallbladder, colon, coronary artery bypass, thoracic, transoral for head and neck cancers, and urologic.

When I first started in nursing, a woman would have a 4- to 5-inch incision for a hysterectomy and, when she went home from the hospital, she couldn’t drive for six weeks. Now a patient who undergoes a hysterectomy with da Vinci is typically in the hospital only one night and has a much quicker recovery period. Just a few short years ago, a woman diagnosed with uterine fibroids may have had a traditional surgical procedure to remove the uterus. Today with da Vinci technology, a morcellator can be used to minimize the fibroid tumors so that the uterus can be removed through the tiny robotic incisions. Many patients may even be able to wear a bikini if they choose.

Methodist Richardson was one of the first hospitals in the area to perform the da Vinci Single-Site™ procedure for gallbladder surgery or cholecystectomy. Through one small incision around the umbilicus (belly button), the surgeon removes the gallbladder, leaving a much more cosmetically aesthetic appearance and allowing a faster recovery time compared to traditional surgery. In fact, most patients go home the same day. Right now, the Single-Site procedure is FDA approved for only gallbladder surgery, but I think it’s only a matter of time before other surgeries are approved using this technique.

Also available at Methodist Dallas and Methodist Mansfield Medical Centers, surgeons must complete highly specialized training before using da Vinci to perform surgeries. Then he or she is proctored through several procedures by a surgeon who is certified in the use of the da Vinci robot. During a da Vinci–assisted procedure, the surgeon is positioned at a console next to the patient on the operating room table. Using two joy sticks and a tiny high-definition 3-D camera that is guided inside the patient’s body, the surgeon manipulates the robot with precise wrist movements, handling surgical tissues with greater dexterity and ease.

I believe the robotics program is the future of surgery. Methodist is able to demonstrate our commitment to the community by bringing residents the benefits of some of the latest surgical technologies. For nurses, advances in technology mean opportunities for continual learning and expanding our knowledge base to better serve our patients. I encourage any OR nurse looking for a new employer to use the availability of technology as a screening criteria. Using the technology lens, nurses can evaluate the impact it is having on patient outcomes, overall quality of care, and staff satisfaction.

If your niche in the OR is technology and continual learning, then it’s time to choose Methodist Health System. Learn more by visiting

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