Surgical robot takes star turn at Carson Tahoe showcase

Carson-Tahoe Health’s Da Vinci Surgical Robot Xi Surgical System uses computer and optical technologies to assist in minimally-invasive procedures.

Carson-Tahoe Health’s Da Vinci Surgical Robot Xi Surgical System uses computer and optical technologies to assist in minimally-invasive procedures.
Photo by Jessica Garcia.

Carson Tahoe Health’s Robotics Showcase on Wednesday gave children a chance to build Lego robots or learn about the possibilities of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“So many of our employees, they were born at the hospital,” said Kitty McKay, CTH associate administrator. “We’re really a community hospital. For us, it’s so important that we help grow our own. It’s just heartwarming to provide that opportunity and kind of connect the dots.”

The event allowed students to try the hospital’s $2 million surgical technology system. The Da Vinci offers efficiency and flexibility with smaller instrument arms for procedures in gynecology, urology, cardiac, thoracic and general surgery.

Surgical robots such as the Da Vinci first came on board in the early 2000s, Dr. Alexander Ayzengart said, and demand has quadrupled.

“Access to technology cannot keep up with demand yet,” he said. “But we’re increasing access to patients. Here in Carson-Tahoe, we’re trying to meet demand to the best of our ability. Carson-Tahoe is way ahead of the curve.”

Ayzengart, who specializes in bariatric and general surgery, said the chance to show students what minimal invasive surgery looks like was exciting.

“There’s a lot of direction in that space where most of the medical care and surgical care will be provided by robotic technology,” he said. “Careers in robotics will be the future of medicine and the future of surgery and will allow them to stay at forefront of science.”

Scott Cameron and Brett Long, manufacturing engineers of CGI, Inc., were invited to see the Da Vinci robot “out in the wild in its natural environment,” Cameron said.

CGI, which provided components to the manufacturing lines of Intuitive Surgical, the corporation that manufactured the Da Vinci system, gave about 40 of its parts and gears in its assembly, Cameron said.

“The amount of articulation it has, in conjunction with its small part size and what they’re able to do it (makes it complex),” he said. “It’s very small incision and so you can imagine doing that same incision without a robotic assist that’s the length of your torso. They (the robots) have four different arms, and they’re controlled independently. That’s outside the scope of what we do (as humans), and you have to keep them from running into each other.”

Cameron and Long said they begin with raw materials, such as aluminum or steel, and build to specifications for hospitals or factories for robotic devices.

“To get all the motion through a tube that small is a pretty good engineering feat,” Long said.

Lacee Johnson, a hospital staffer and mother of two sons at the event, Kendrick and Gabriel Coronado, 7 and 5, said she thought the showcase was “amazing.”

“I think it’s pretty inspiring so the kids can see maybe what they do now can make a difference as they get bigger,” Johnson said.

McKay said there were about 25 CTH staff members at the event, encouraging students, which she was excited to see.

“This brings it all to light,” she said. “One of these kids might be learning now from one of those kids, and we invent the next iteration of robotic surgery, and it goes from just an interest to saving lives.”


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