Mercy Hospital Among The First in the Nation to Perform Single-Site Robotic Surgery

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February 7, 2012

Each year, about one million people in the United States will undergo gallbladder removal surgery. Of that number, 40% of these patients are women, ages 18 to 44. In the Buffalo area alone, there were nearly 1,600 gallbladder removal surgeries performed in 2010.

Thanks to the latest breakthrough in robotic-assisted surgery, patients can now have their gallbladder removed in about the same amount of time as a lunch break, and be home in time for dinner with minimal discomfort and potentially no visible scar. Minimally invasive surgery has taken yet another step forward.

Kenneth Eckhert, III, MD, a general surgeon and chairman of Mercy Hospital’s Robotic Committee, is among the very first surgeons in the United States and the first in Western New York to perform a robotic-assisted cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal surgery) using a single incision through the belly button.

The first Western New York procedure took place at Mercy Hospital of Buffalo on January 27.

Eckhert removed the gallbladder in 60 minutes and the patient returned home five hours later. Mercy Hospital is one of just two hospitals in New York State and one of only twenty sites across the country to offer this groundbreaking surgery, made possible through a new FDA-approved single-site advancement to the da Vinci® Robotic Surgical System.

“One of the greatest advantages of having the robotic assistance for single-incision surgery is being able to offer this minimally invasive and virtually scarless surgery to more of my patients,” said Dr. Eckhert. “I would estimate that just 10% of my patients were good candidates for conventional single incision laparoscopic surgery, but now with the aid of the da Vinci system, I think I will be able to offer this type of surgery to 80% of my patients.”

Intuitive Surgical, Inc. received FDA-approval on the new operating platform for the da Vinci® Robotic Surgical System specifically for cholecystectomy procedures, the surgical removal of the gallbladder. The system enables surgeons to reduce the traditional number of incisions from 4- 6 small incisions to one incision that is less than an inch in length.

“I think this is only the beginning and eventually we will expand the use of this tool for more procedures,” said Dr. Eckhert. “The robotic system gives me the ability to not only operate through one small incision and through a natural body opening like the umbilicus, but it gives me the precision and three-dimensional, high definition vision system to enhance surgical capabilities.”

Surgeons at Catholic Health’s Mercy Hospital of Buffalo utilize the da Vinci System for a variety of minimally invasive robotic surgical procedures, including urological, gynecological, cardiac and general surgery. In 2005, Mercy Hospital was one of the first hospitals in the Western New York region and one of the earliest in the country to acquire the da Vinci® Robotic Surgical System.

Dr. Kenneth Eckhert, III, MD, performs surgery with the da Vinci Robotic Surgical System.