Robotic surgery helps Valley patients recover quickly

FRESNO, Calif.

Kristine Minor is spending the summer with her sons Tyler and Matthew, who love to play with their dog in the backyard of their Merced home. But during the school year, this busy mom is also a teacher so when her doctor told her, she needed a hysterectomy, she didn't know how she was going to fit the involved operation into her schedule.

Kristine Minor: "I would have had to take several weeks off of school and with the boys, that's a major surgery and I've got to keep up with them so that definitely wouldn't have worked".

But Kristine's doctor told her about a new, robot-assisted surgery at Saint Agnes that would be minimally-invasive -- cutting down drastically on down time.

Kristine had her surgery over her December break last year and then, hit the stores for the holidays the next day. "That evening when I was in my room, I was fine and the next morning my husband came and picked me up and we went shopping and came back home. (laughs) it was amazing!"

Instead of going under the knife, Kristine went under the Da Vinci SI, the latest surgeon-controlled robot that's revolutionizing medicine by requiring only small cuts into the body instead of large incisions in traditional surgery.

OB/GYN John Swanson says faster recover time for patients. "It's not only possible, it's the norm. It's what we expect now."

The surgeon sits at the control board -- reducing physician fatigue -- and the instruments at the ends of the robot's surgical "arms" respond to his own movements.

The camera on the machine also allows the doctor to see incredible detail -- like the scratches on a dime -- in much more detail than the human eye.

The precision of the Da Vinci SI is even better than a human's capability to see and move. It gives surgeons a 3-dimentional, high-definition view of their surgical process and the ability to move their instruments at angles far beyond the limitations of normal movement.

"Actually more mobilization that with our own wrists, so I can do things I can't even do with my own hands," said Dr. John Swanson.

A surgical revolution that allowed this busy mom and other Valley patients to stay right in the swing of things.

There are only 20, Da Vinci S-I Models in the state and just over 300, nationwide. Saint Agnes has the only "Da Vinci" in the Valley and says patients no longer have to travel to other cities to have robot-assisted surgery.

The hospital plans to start using it for cardiovascular surgeries later this year.

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