Upstate News

March 5, 2003
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

SUNY Upstate Medical University previews million dollar surgery robot

SUNY Upstate Medical University, exploring whether it will soon offer patients minimally invasive cardiac surgery, will bring to campus a million dollar surgical robot and the pioneering physician whose clinical trial paved the way for FDA approval in 2002 of robotic surgery for mitral valve repair.

The da Vinci Surgical System and Randolph Chitwood, M.D., will be at the Institute for Human Performance Wednesday, March 12, to offer demonstrations on how the robotic surgical system is used in cardiac surgery. Chitwood is professor and chairman of the Department of Surgery at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University.

Chitwood will demonstrate the device and speak about its potential in all areas of surgery at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. in the Institute for Human Performance. Chitwood will be available for media interviews prior to presentations, at 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Minimally invasive surgery, used in other procedures, such as kidney and prostate removal, bariatric surgery and hernia repair, has been slow to progress to cardiac surgery, because of the complexitity of heart procedures. But a breakthrough in minimally invasive cardiac surgery came last fall, when the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of daVinci robot for mitral valve repair.

Seated at the console of daVinci Surgical System, surgeons view a 3-D image of the patient’s body and use a joystick-like instrument to manipulate small instruments inserted through small chest incisions. The robotic arms mimic the natural movements of the hand and fingers. The robot’s built-in computer enhances the surgeon’s hand movements, making them more precise which is especially important in delicate bypass and valve surgery.

“Studies have shown that surgery with this robotic device provides cardiac surgery patients less scarring, a decreased risk of infection and a quicker recovery,” said cardiac surgeon Charles Lutz, M.D., an assistant professor of surgery at SUNY Upstate. “Traditional cardiac surgery requires surgeons to cut into the breastbone and that incision takes quite some time to heal. Using robotic surgery, doctors make incisions between the ribs, so no bones need to heal, which greatly reduces the patient’s recovery time.”

Lutz said the da Vinci Surgical System could soon receive approval for use in coronary artery bypass grafting and artrial septal defect repair as ongoing clinical trials show great promise.

New York, Boston and Cleveland are the cities nearest Syracuse where the da Vinci Surgical System is currently used for mitral valve repair. A da Vinci Surgical System in Syracuse would mean area residents could remain in Central New York to receive this cutting-edge surgery.

SUNY Upstate officials say their analysis of the da Vinci Surgical System would explore its use in other areas of surgery, such as thoracic, pediatric, general urologic and transplant.

Editors Note: For more information on the da Vinci Surgical System go to:
For more information on Dr. Randolph Chitwood’s clinical trial on the da Vinci Surgical System go to:

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