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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Surgeons at MultiCare Valley Hospital now using specialized robots

Courtney Gigliotti, a VELYS clinical specialist demonstrates how a VELYS robotic knee surgery system works during a robotics showcase on Monday at MultiCare Valley Hospital in Spokane Valley.  (Tyler Tjomsland/The Spokesman-Review)

New robotics at MultiCare Valley Hospital ensure patients will not need to travel outside Spokane Valley to receive a broad range of surgeries.

While not new to the area, MultiCare is expanding its offerings of robots that guide surgeons and allow them to work in much smaller areas of the body. MultiCare general surgeon Dr. Stephen Reese said these tools allow for more precise surgeries.

“When you have small incisions to accomplish pretty big operations, you have less trauma to patients, and basically patients can get back to doing what they like to do a lot sooner,” Reese said.

Central to a Monday showcase of the technology is the latest version of the Da Vinci surgical robot. The device allows a surgeon to control four robotic arms that are smaller and more precise than fingers and hands. While looking at the screen, the surgeon does the surgery with their hands on the controls, while robotic arms mimic the movements on the actual patient.

It is still the surgeon conducting the surgery, not the robot. But the minimally invasive surgeries have fewer complications and less blood loss, and patients can be discharged sooner, Reese said. He also noted that patients typically experience less pain and need fewer addictive pain-relieving opioids in their recovery.

The device is applicable to a broad range of surgeries, and one is now stationed at Valley Hospital. The technology itself is not new. Deaconess has used similar robotics since 2009, and Providence Sacred Heart has for much longer. But having an additional device means some critical patients will not have to be transferred to Deaconess Hospital in Spokane.

Reese also noted the Da Vinci device at Valley is a newer model with features not seen in the other devices at Deaconess. The device’s controller gives the surgeon the physical feeling that mimics what the inside of the patient feels like.

“That has been the downside of robotics in the past, is you don’t have that feel. You had to get good at feeling with your eyes, rather than your hands. Here, your hands are feeling,” Reese said. “It tells you whether or not you’re pushing too hard on something. You can tell if something is hard or soft or scarred.”

A MultiCare spokesperson declined to state how much each of the robotic tools costs .

MultiCare Inland Northwest Hospitals President Gregory Repetti said at the showcase there is often an “invisible wall” in care between Spokane and the Valley.

“People in the Valley really like to stay in the Valley for care. Having the robotics here allow us to continue to grow out services at Valley Hospital,” Repetti said.

Between the two hospitals in the area, MultiCare has ten surgical robotic tools now in place.

Other robotics featured at the showcase include tools designed to assist surgeons doing joint replacements. Several of these tools allow surgeons to lock in the surgery plan so it cannot go off course during the procedure. While the surgeon is still cutting into the bone, the machine will stop cutting if they go too far off course.

“It’s going to get you within a half a millimeter of what your plan was,” clinical specialist Courtney Gigliotti said of the knee replacement VELYS surgical tool.

Registered nurse Ron Pullen encouraged those at the showcase to tell those needing a surgery that they likely do not have to go far.

“If you have family or friends that need to go somewhere to have a surgery – ‘Go to Seattle or New York or Los Angeles.’ No! It’s right here in your backyard. They need to come right here,” Pullen said.