The University of Iowa Hospitals and College of Medicine host doctors from around the world today and Friday, as they learn about the work being done with robots on very small patients. Doctor John Meehan is leading the second annual international symposium on “pediatric robotic surgery.” Meehan says for fifteen years doctors have been using “minimally-invasive surgery” on adults, only about five on children. Now he says they use a new technique dubbed robotic surgery, though he says it’d be wrong to imagine machines operating on a patient all by themselves. We’ve told you about the new devices they use dubbed “Da Vinci” which let a human’s hands make very tiny motions using the robotic controls. You don’t just have “chopsticks” at your control, he explains, the device allows wrist-action movement. “It’s huge,” the doctor exclaims, “now you can suture, tie knots, come at different angles that you couldn’t do before…an absolutely amazing advancement in minimally-invasive surgery.” Dr. Meehan says he’s been able to do surgery with this robot that he couldn’t have done with a laparascope. And if it had been normal surgery it would have required a big incision, he says, with more pain and a longer hospital stay while the patient recovers. The doctor says robotic surgery lets the surgeon use a tiny incision, as small as a fifth of an inch. Other doctors have come from Michigan, Arkansas and California to help demonstrate the micro-surgery to visiting physicians from Denmark, Australia, France and other parts of the world. “All these guys have come in just to watch us do surgery,” he says, “and then also do it themselves.” The Iowa doctors take them through it in a laboratory environment and the visitors are amazed at the technology. Dr. Meehan says it’s not unusual to get doctors together for training conferences, but it’s a thrill to be offering the teaching now instead of attending as a student as he once did.
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