Surgical Robot Helps Eau Claire Patients Recover Faster

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The hands of a surgeon have always had the power to heal, but if you put robotic technology behind them, Dr. Michael Hirsh says medical miracles can be made.

"We used to have to make very large incisions, now we're able to do the same surgery through very small incisions, roughly the size of a dime," Dr. Hirsh with Western Wisconsin Urology said.

He uses what's called the da Vinci robotic surgical system to make those incisions, helping his patients recover much more quickly than with traditional open surgery.

"It's like one day in the hospital rather than four, five or six," patient Al Sandstrom said.

Sandstrom is battling prostate cancer and underwent surgery to remove cancerous tissue using the new da Vinci system.

"It seemed to me that it was the only thing to do," he said.

Because his surgery was minimally invasive, Sandstrom had a shorter hospital stay, less pain and blood loss and a lower risk of infection than most.

"I have two brothers that had the conventional surgery and they both had a lot more problems that I did in recovery," Sandstrom said.

The 1.5 million dollar technology uses three robotic arms to control the surgical instruments and one to maneuver a camera.

During procedures, the surgeon maneuvers those arms from a console with a three dimensional viewfinder.

"We can control the camera angle and the camera depth with our masters," Dr. James Iwakiri said.

Helping doctors operate with precision and on an impossibly small scale.

"Our instruments actually have seven degrees of freedom like a human wrist and they're very miniature instruments they really allow us to do a very precise surgery, less complications, faster recovery," Dr. Iwakiri said.

And though physicians say the system makes surgery more challenging for the doctors.

"It's much easier for the patient," Dr. Hirsh said.