HealthONE - May 13, 2021

A robot sits alongside the operating room table during surgery, assisting in the procedure and guiding the surgeon. This might sound like a scene straight from the The Jetsons… but it’s not Rosie’s cousin wheeling around this operating room. This scene is a regular occurrence at Swedish Medical Center in Denver. The surgical robots at this hospital are not cartoons—they are very real, assisting in very real surgeries and improving very real patients’ lives.

The Surgical Robotics Institute at Swedish is a highly specialized, robust surgical robotics program, performing surgeries that are more precise, more accurate and more life-changing than ever. “We have completed more than 6,500 surgeries with the aid of surgical robotics,” explains Cari Cardenas, director of the Surgical Robotics Institute at Swedish Medical Center. “Each of these cases is special to us because we know the technology and techniques we use are getting people back to living their lives with less pain, and faster than ever before.” The program at Swedish offers robotic surgery for many medical specialties including general surgery, colorectal surgery, gastrointestinal surgery, head and neck surgery, thoracic surgery, cardiac surgery, urologic surgery, gynecology surgery.

Highly Trained Robotic Surgeons and Support Team

Surgical robotics is a complex, evolving field that requires specialized skill and education. The robotics surgeons, advanced practice providers, nurses and support team at the Surgical Robotics Institute all have undergone advanced instruction and specialized preparation programs. Practitioners in the program also focus heavily on teamwork to bring the highest level of cohesion for every case. “We take the lead in coordination-- between the operating room team, pre-operative team, post-anesthesia care unit and surgeons. This way, everyone is prepared and up to date on the specifics of each individual case,” Cardenas details. Further, the team regularly collaborates with equipment vendors and other experts to receive the latest training, helping each member of the team be as knowledgeable as possible.

State-of-the-Art Robotic Technology and Techniques

The Surgical Robotics Institute team uses advanced surgical systems that are less invasive than traditional laparoscopic surgery. Controlled by a skilled surgeon, the system uses tiny tools enter the body through small incisions and translate the surgeon’s hand movements into precise, small actions inside the body. As a result, the surgeon can operate on a smaller scale with enhanced vision and exacting movements. “In a nutshell, the program works as an extension of the surgeon’s eyes, hands the limbs,” Cardenas says. “The surgeon has 3D magnified vision and incredible mobility of the system’s arms. This allows for a far more effective, precise surgical experience.”

Because this type of surgery is so specialized, Swedish has created a separate robotics unit within the hospital’s operating room. This space has four dedicated suites, each housing a robotic system. These operating suites recently were upgraded to optimize space and efficiency in each room. But the work isn’t done—because robotics is always progressing, the program’s leaders work with surgeons and other experts in the field to continually seek out new technologies, supplies and protocols to ensure the Institute’s care is on the cutting-edge.

Dedicated Recovery for Robotics Cases

Patients of surgical robotics often experience many benefits over a traditional open procedure. Because the surgery is less invasive and more precise, patients often have less pain, fewer complications, less blood loss, shorter hospital stays and minimal scarring. The team at Swedish takes these benefits one step further by also following an enhanced surgical recovery model and using a dedicated robotics floor. On this unit, recovery care providers are skilled in caring for patients who are recovering from robotic procedures. “Our team of operating room, pre-op and recovery providers have more than 125 years of combined robotics experience,” Cardenas explains. “Our team sees it as a privilege to care for patients undergoing robotic procedures. We get to see patients’ lives change right before our eyes and more than anything, we love to hear stories from our patients who are able to get back to their lives faster and with less pain than ever before.”

Hear from a Surgical Robotics Institute patient about his experience with the program and a robotic prostatectomy.

Learn more about the Surgical Robotics Institute at Swedish Medical Center on our robotic surgery page.