A baby girl recently underwent break-through surgery at the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital. Doctor John Meehan was the lead surgeon. “The little girl did (wonderfully),” Meehan says. “She had the surgery on day of life and she’s the youngest patient to ever undergo robotic surgery.” The baby, Amber Brisby of Montrose, is also the first patient in the world to ever have the specific type of repair done using “robotic technology.”
Meehan says the baby’s rare condition was discovered while she was still in her mother’s womb, and the mother asked surgeons to fix it. The baby’s intestine was missing a link, and the mother asked that a “minimally-invasive” approach be employed, so the surgeons used a robot. “We are trying in surgery to move to doing everything minimally invasive,” he says. “We’re trying to do surgery with tiny incisions instead of the old, classic way with the big incisions.”
It started about 20 years ago with gall bladder surgeries that used telescopes and small instruments, but Meehan says it was difficult to use those kind of instruments in more complex surgeries because the devices were like chopsticks. Meehan says it was like operating with two fingers. Now, the robotic arms pivot giving surgeons something akin to wrist action, which Meehan says is an enormous advantage.
Robotic techniques have been used in adults, but never before in a newborn, five-pound baby. “It’s a great, new technology. We’ve got a long way to go with it, but I’m hoping that someday we will no longer do any open operations and everything will be done with these minimally-invasive devices,” Meehan says. The surgery was performed on October 14th, and the doctor says the baby’s eating normally now and “growing quite normally.”