Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Hospital uses robotic surgery

Little Johnny’s video gaming skills may come in handy someday in Evanston Hospital’s operating room. Joysticks and 3-D imaging have moved from children’s basements into hospitals with robotic surgery.

In line with the latest technology, Evanston Hospital is the first in Illinois to perform robotic surgery with the da Vinci S System.


Look and listen…

To see a video of the robot in action, click here to visit ENH’s Web site.


“We are early on in the program,” said Art Massa, vice president of corporate communications and advertising at Evanston Northwestern Healthcare. “We are beginning to promote and make people aware that we have this new technology.”

The da Vinci S System is manufactured by Intuitive Surgical. It consists of a bed and a console that shows magnified 3-D imaging. The surgeon sits behind the consul, controlling up to four robotic arms with a joystick.

“The arms themselves have full 360-degree mobility, which surgeons were never able to have before,” Massa said. “As he moves his fingers and his wrists, the arms basically operate in a split-second movement within the body of the patient. The advantage we had is Dr. William Johnston.”

During his fellowship at University of Michigan Medical School, Johnston, a urologist, was trained in robotic surgery for procedures involving the prostate. Doctors complete an Intuitive Surgical program about the computer system in addition to a fellowship that involves performing robotic surgery.

Johnston, who is also a Feinberg assistant professor, is the only ENH doctor who has trained for these procedures. He is training other urologists and sees great benefits in robotic surgery, especially in removals of the prostate gland.

“My preference in the pelvic area and the prostate is to use the robot, because the area is a very small working area,” Johnston said. “We are looking where we are going as opposed to just feeling. We are doing a lot finer surgery and our whole goal with this is sparing the nerves.”

Other benefits of the robotic procedure include decreased blood loss, faster recovery time and dime-sized incisions that are inches shorter than the cuts doctors make in open surgery. Robotic surgery takes slightly longer than open surgery because of the detailed imaging, Johnston said.

While it has many benefits, few hospitals can afford the new technology. ENH purchased the da Vinci S for $1.5 million.

Charles Medlar, an orthopedic surgeon in Jackson, Mich., said he was worried healthcare would become driven by finances with increased use of technology.

“With the cost of medicine, nowadays hospitals need to prove something like this is cost-effective,” Medlar said. “It is not something you just start up and try.”

The procedure is covered by insurance. Robotic surgery is being used in the United States for cardiac, gynecological and general surgeries, Johnston said. He thinks it has the potential to be used in other areas as well.

But the advances in medical technology has some doctors concerned that the physician’s role may be diminishing.

“I think perhaps that medicine is becoming too technical,” Medlar said. “People have to step back and realize that medicine is the human touch, not only physically but mentally as well.”

Reach Sarah Tompkins at [email protected].

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881
Hospital uses robotic surgery