With more than 120 million people living in Japan and only one doctor practicing robotic-assisted surgery, only the wealthiest citizens of that nation can afford the improved outcomes and recovery that this innovative method provides for serious procedures, including cardiac surgery.
“Many patients could benefit from [robotic-assisted] surgery. They can recover faster, and there’s less pain,” says Dr. Yusuke Mima, one of two surgeons from Osaka, Japan, looking to gain expertise in this area. To do so, they sought out one of the most renowned experts in the field, right in Cincinnati at TriHealth Good Samaritan Hospital. “We think everyone should have access to this option instead of a few and that’s why we are here to learn for our patients.”
J. Michael Smith MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon at TriHealth, hosted the physicians and shared his knowledge with them. He is one of the few surgeons in the world with enough experience to train surgeons to perform major heart surgery with robotic assistance.
“For all surgeons, not just international, it's important to sharpen ‘iron with iron,’” Dr. Smith says. “The field of medicine is traditionally very collegial, creating an environment where surgeons are training to get better every day by learning from each other.”
Dr. Smith has been teaching other surgeons for many years, both from the United States and abroad, allowing them use robotic system to give their patients the unique health and recovery benefits that result from robotic-assisted surgery.
“I adopted robotic heart surgery knowing that the technology would only get better and better as time went on, and that my proficiency with it now would pay off tremendously for patients in the future,” Dr. Smith says.
Robotic-assisted surgery at TriHealth is an option for anyone who qualifies for it. But, in Japan, many people don’t have the option of this innovative surgery. The use of robotic surgical equipment wasn’t approved in Japan until recently, and public sector physicians are not trained with the equipment yet.
The Japanese surgeons watched Dr. Smith perform a robotic-assisted heart surgery, and learned how to use the robot. After watching the surgery and getting a lesson from Dr. Smith, the physicians performed labs with the da Vinci ® Surgical System to get hands-on experience.
Without robotic assistance, complex heart surgeries are performed by making a large incision in the chest to give surgeons direct access and a clear view of our heart. We know it as open heart surgery. While it’s effective for many procedures, it’s highly invasive and can result in significant blood loss and long recovery times.
But robotic-assisted surgery is changing the game for how certain complex heart surgeries are performed, namely taking away the need to open up the chest cavity. With the help of robotic-assisted surgery there’spotential for significantly less pain, a shorter hospital stay, and a faster return to normal daily activities after major heart surgery. The surgeon controls every movement the robot makes, with precise vision from a camera. The whole surgery can be performed with three or four 1- to 2- centimeter incisions.
If you want to know more about how robotic-assisted surgery works, visit our robotics page.