New USF facility to house surgical robots

As popularity for surgical robots mounts, USF is planning to create a new building to house and allow for the expansion of its current program – one of only two training centers in the southeast.

USF will build a free-standing Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation by September 2011, said Associate Vice President and Associate Dean for USF Health Deborah Sutherland.

The University is still in the developing stages of planning for the new center, said USF spokesman Michael Hoad, and is also looking for a developer to build a hotel to house doctors who will travel from around the world to receive training.

The USF Health da Vinci center, which opened in August 2009, is used for training surgeons to perform minimally invasive surgery using robots, Sutherland said.

USF students specializing in surgical areas are among those receiving training from the center.

The da Vinci center is home to two robots: an older model called the S platform and a newer model called the Si dual platform.

The advantage of the Si dual robot, Sutherland said, is that a physician can perform a surgical routine at one console while a trainee learns by sitting in a second console at the same time.

“It’s great for training purposes because you have somebody working with you, side by side,” she said.

Local hospitals are using the same robots to perform surgeries on patients, including Advanced Urology of Tampa Bay and Contemporary Women’s Care Gynecology, according to the USF Health da Vinci center Web site.

Sutherland said the new center would house the da Vinci center, the similar SimSuite simulation center, which USF Health currently runs at Tampa General Hospital, and others that have yet to be named.

Procedures done by these robots provide patients with faster recovery times and fewer complications, Sutherland said, because the robots make small incisions in the body and alleviate the need for doctors to cut through muscle and tissue.

The robotic arms and 3-D cameras are inserted into the patient through small, keyhole-sized incisions, she said. The system then replicates the surgeon’s hand movements using robotic arms.

The average recovery time for a hysterectomy is three to four days, but the robots can reduce that time to two days, according to the USF Health Web site.

The robots perform surgeries in the areas of urology, gynecology, general surgery, gynecologic oncology and assist with ears, nose and throat problems, according to the da Vinci Web site.

The robots, which are manufactured by the company Intuitive Surgical, cost $2 million each and are used to train up to 50 doctors per month, Sutherland said.

“The da Vinci center is nice because we have a center to teach,” Hoad said. “It is sort of the pilot to what we want to be a bigger teaching center.”