Bellin’s robotic-assisted surgery aids child’s conception


GREEN BAY — When endometriosis hampered Denmark residents Paul and Martina Weyde’s six-year effort to conceive, they sought the expertise of Bellin Health’s Dr. Herb Coussons who enlisted the services of a robot to help him perform a precise surgery to increase the couple’s chances of having a child.

Coussons is one of many surgeons using the da Vinci Surgical System at Bellin Health to perform robotic-assisted surgery, providing patients with improved outcomes and shorter recovery times.

For Martina Weyde, robotic-assisted surgery allowed Coussons to correct her endometriosis – a painful ailment affecting the region around the uterus – with greater precision, less risk of complications and an increased likelihood of the desired results.

“We were pregnant three months to the day of my endometriosis surgery,” Martina Weyde said. “We have a healthy baby girl now. I’m so thankful that this technology was available.”

Bellin was the first hospital in Northeast Wisconsin to perform robotic-assisted surgery. The hospital has been using the technology for nearly three years.

“The da Vinci system is a machine with very dexterous arms, each having tools attached to them,” Coussons said. “This machine, although not applicable in all surgeries, gives us even more precision during medical procedures, even under microscopic conditions. This is definitely a better tool for us and helped us tremendously when performing Martina’s successful surgery.”

Bellin’s da Vinci Surgical System is one of the hospital’s innovations in the field of minimally invasive surgery. The system – comprised of a surgical cart, three robotic arms, a computerized viewer and a main console – extends a surgeon’s capabilities by offering enhanced three-dimensional visualization, greater dexterity and an increased level of surgical precision.

Coussons corrected Weyde’s endometriosis using the system instead of traditional laparoscopic surgery, or open surgery which requires an incision large enough for the surgeon to see inside of the body cavity to perform the surgery. In contrast, robotic-assisted surgery requires just three incisions – none more than an inch long – through which a tiny camera and other surgical tools, all attached to robotic arms, are inserted into the targeted areas.

The da Vinci system’s arms – acting as robotic extensions of the surgeon’s right and left arms with a middle camera arm – are attached to the main console at which the surgeon sits. Positioned a few feet from the patient, the surgeon peers through the viewer at a 3-D, real-time camera image of the surgical area. The console’s hand and foot controls translate the surgeon’s movements into precise motions by the robotic arms. The robot mimics the surgeon’s motions on a much smaller scale.

“I know robotic-assisted surgery sounds somewhat like science fiction but it’s not, really,” Coussons said. “It’s more like using a remote-controlled tool.”

The surgeon’s view of the surgical area is further enhanced by the ability to zoom in or out. With a 360-degree view, 10 times greater magnification than laparoscopic surgery, the motion-scaling feature of the robotic system, and 3-D, real-time imaging, the surgeon can perform very fine reconstructive and dissection procedures. This translates to less blood loss, reduced risk of complication and a shorter hospital stay for patients, Coussons said.

“I was in and out of the hospital on the same day,” Martina Weyde said. “And there was very little pain. I was a little sore, that’s about it.”

Surgeons like the system because they experience less fatigue, as they perform a great portion of robotic-assisted surgeries in a seated position, and generally perform with greater accuracy and precision thanks to the machine’s capabilities.

“We can more easily get into those smaller, tricky areas, and the overall visualization is just phenomenal,” Coussons said. “It’s quite impressive from our standpoint.”

The da Vinci system has a number of other surgical applications, Coussons said.

“Given this technology, procedures such as prostate cancer surgery and digestive system and colon surgeries can also be performed robotically with minimal blood loss, decreased risk of complications and less pain to our patients,” he said. “New applications in areas like cardiac, thoracic and urological surgeries are also on the horizon.”

Although the da Vinci system greatly enhances a surgeon’s capabilities, it can’t fully replace traditional hands-on contact from a surgeon, Coussons said. “I think the surgeon will continue to be the captain of the ship.”