By Daylina Miller
A Pasco County hospital is the first in the Tampa Bay region to use a new robotic technology to treat coronary artery disease.
At the Medical Center of Trinity, surgeons can sit a few feet back from a patient and use a joystick to manipulate robotic arms joystick to deliver a balloon, stent or treatment device into blood vessels during an angioplasty.
The CorPath GRX robotic surgical platform by the Massachusetts-based Corindus Vascular Robotics is already being used in Orlando and Miami hospitals. It received FDA clearance for 'percutaneous coronary interventions' - or angioplasties- in 2016, and for peripheral vascular interventions - outpatient procedures to remobe plaque buildup in arteries - in 2018.
The new tech is a sort of cousin to the daVinci Surgical System, which was approved by the FDA in 2000 as the first robotic surgical platform commercially available in the United States for use in general laparoscopic surgery.
“daVinci is going inside the belly and you move the mechanical fingers and hands around to be able to suture and apply cautery and things like that, to control bleeding,” said Dr. Patrick Cambier, an interventional cardiologist at the Medical Center of Trinity.
The CorPath GRX, however, allows for linear movement through the vessels.
“So once we place the wires in the robot arm, I can drive these little wires, which are essentially train tracks for all of our equipment. And then I go and I take the balloon or the stent over that train, track and deliver it to the site I wish to treat - all while sitting comfortably in a chair and being able to concentrate on studying this very high-resolution screen that's in front of me magnifying the artery in a tremendous fashion.”
And because the surgeon is sitting behind a protected cockpit away from the patient, he said it dramatically reduces radiation exposure during the procedure for physicians.
Cambier says while the technology is being experimented with for use in telehealth, his patients at the hospital are in the same room with him, just six feet away,
“Although this procedure could be done, literally with me sitting in a sport coat driving the bot, I I'm in the scrubs, I'm in the sterile equipment, and the console is sterily draped,” Cambier said.
“So if I need to jump right in, I just get out of my chair and shoot on over to the patient side, and do what I do otherwise, for all of the other cases. So there's no heightened risk or isolation from their providers.”
As far as the telehealth aspect goes, Cambier says he could eventually be able to assist with surgeries in other parts of the state and country, with him in a room in Trinity, and the patient’s medical team in a room elsewhere setting up equipment and on standby for an emergency.
"With the physician shortage of high-skilled specialists who can do this kind of work, this will be able to expand the reach to more remote places in our own backyard,” Cambier said.
While the Medical Center of Trinity is the first in the Tampa Bay region to use this particular platform, the use of robot-assisted devices has grown steadily over the last couple decades,
Markets and Market reported that, “the surgical robots market is expected to grow from $3.9 billion in 2018 to $6.5 billion by 2023, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 10.4% during the forecast period.”
In 2009, Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center began establishing best practices for an academic university medical center using surgical robots.
Patients do not incur extra costs for having this robot-assisted surgery versus the manual surgery, and some studies suggest the technology reduces the number of additional stents needed, or improper placement of stents.