News for those who live, work and play in the Santiam Canyon

Santiam Hospital debuts new robotic surgery machine

A curious crowd gathered in the lobby of the surgery center at Santiam Hospital & Clinics on Oct. 31, to view the debut of the hospital’s new robotic surgery machine.

Hospital personnel and community members watched as a series of surgeons and registered nurses sat down at the controls of the machine and performed surgeries on a teddy bear. 

First, operators unwrapped a Starburst candy that was sitting on the bear’s tummy. 

Then, operators worked on using the robot arms to mimic stitching the bear back together post-surgery.

“I’m really excited,” said Amanda Wagner, a gynecologist, who moved to Santiam from a hospital in Paducah, Kentucky, to spearhead the hospital’s use of the new robot. Patients already have scheduled robotic surgeries with Wagner, and she has begin using the machine. 

Gynecologist Amanda Wagner and general surgeon Lishka Havel are shown in front of the new da Vinci Xi robotic surgery machine at the Oct. 31 demonstration at Santiam Hospital & Clinics in Stayton. The dark rings around Wagner’s eyes are part of a Halloween costume. James Day
Gynecologist Amanda Wagner and general surgeon Lishka Havel are shown in front of the new da Vinci Xi robotic surgery machine at the Oct. 31 demonstration at Santiam Hospital & Clinics in Stayton. The dark rings around Wagner’s eyes are part of a Halloween costume.
James Day

“This is a big deal,” she added. “I’ve seen how it can change the dynamic for a small hospital.”

Wagner spent 13 years operating a similar robot in Kentucky, where she handled approximately 1,500 robotic surgeries. General surgeon Lishka Havel also will be part of the surgical team. 

Wagner said training on the new robot goes pretty quickly and that it is an easy transition for those who have used a laparoscope. 

Surgeries with the robot have some similar advantages to those with a laparoscope – better vision for the doctor and less invasive for the patient leading to quicker recovery times and minimal scarring.

When asked by an audience member at the demonstration what types of surgeries the robot is suited for, Wagner pointed to her knees and her neck and noted that anything in between those two areas involving soft tissue was a good fit for the robot.

Hospital officials noted that types of surgeries that can be performed by the da Vinci include general procedures such as hernia repair, colon resectioning, esophagus/reflux procedures, and appendectomies and gall bladder removals. 

Gynecological procedures include hysterectomies, the removal of uterine cysts and fibroids and the removal of ovaries and fallopian tubes.

Stephen Silber, a registered nurse at the hospital, was one of the first operators to fire up the da Vinci. He compared the experience to using a video game and noted that gamers would definitely have an advantage, at least early on, over non-gamers when it comes to training to use the robot.

The robot is manufactured by Intuitive Surgical of Sunnyvale, California, and two company representatives were on hand to assist with the demonstration. Approximately 7,000 of the robots are in use worldwide. 

Santiam Hospital & Clinics CEO Maggie Hudson said in a press release previewing the demonstration that the addition of the da Vinci “is yet another reason that our patients do not need to leave our community or health care system and will receive the best available health care close to home right at Santiam.”

Other hospitals in the mid-valley that use the da Vinci robot are Albany, Salem, Corvallis and Silverton.

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