A Milestone For Da Vinci

A Cottage Hospital robot called the Da Vinci Surgical System has recently completed a milestone: its 100th surgery at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital

Cottage is one of the few places in the nation where one can opt for the minimally invasive surgery assisted by this technology. Although other specialists including cardiac, gynecology and general surgeons, share the robot, it is primarily used by urologic surgeons for prostate cancer surgery, according to Santa Barbara urologist David Laub, M.D.

“Over the last year, the robot has lived up to the high expectations we had for it,” comments Dr. Laub. “Patients experience less pain, less blood loss, and shorter recovery times. The incisions are much smaller than in open surgery procedures.”

The Da Vinci was installed at Cottage nearly two years ago, thanks to a $1.5-million anonymous gift. “The donor’s goal was to give our community important new technology, so people don't have to go outside the area to receive state-of-the-art treatment," says Ronald Werft, president and CEO of Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital System. “We are one of only about 300 hospitals in the nation that offer this technology, and we are a referral center for surrounding areas including North County, San Luis Obispo, and the Central Valley, who do not have the robot.”

Dr. Laub, a board certified urologist specializing in management of prostate disease, performed Cottage Hospital's first surgery using the robot in November 2005. Dr. Laub says three urologists make use of the Da Vinci robot: himself, Daniel Curhan, M.D., and Alex Koper, M.D. The three surgeons assist each other with cases allowing them to concentrate their skills. The older open prostatectomy procedure has virtually stopped being done in our community, according to Dr. Laub.

The robot works by allowing surgeons' wrist and finger movements outside the patient's body to be precisely translated into movements of tiny instruments inside the body. “There is unsurpassed magnification of the operative field, with a 3-D view inside the body,” explains Dr. Laub. “The robot is not programmed; it doesn't think and cannot move without continuous surgeon input. Surgery is moving toward minimally invasive procedures,” he says, noting that, “In our community, only four open prostatectomies were completed in the last six months, while over 80 Da Vinci prostatectomies have been completed to date.”

“Treatment for localized cancer includes radiation seed therapy, Cryoablation or freezing of the prostate, and traditional surgery,” Dr. Laub explains, adding that, “In my opinion the Da Vinci prostatectomy is the new standard for the surgical option.”