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Living Well

Voice-controlled Robot Aids Abdominal Surgery

Last updated: Apr 06, 2011


When Kevin McGroary learned his pancreatitis bouts were from a pancreatic cyst, he adjusted his diet. He hoped eating differently would help him avoid pain that sent him to the hospital. But the 51-year-old from Scotch Plains, New Jersey, continued having pain as the cyst grew. When doctors said they must remove the cyst or it might become cancerous, Mr. McGroary worried he would have a complicated surgery and long recovery.

Mr. McGroary was lucky, though. In February, Summit Medical Group surgeon Andrew A. Gumbs, MD, removed the tumor with a procedure (minimally invasive) that uses tiny instruments passed through small incisions. During the procedure, Dr. Gumbs used a new voice-controlled robotic device, ViKY®. As a result of the minimally invasive approach, Mr. McGroary spent only 4 days in the hospital. He was home working on his computer the next week!

Summit Medical Group is one of only a handful of health care facilities nationwide offering the innovative robotic technology from France. ViKY can be used for surgical procedures of the upper digestive system. "Doctors use it for gastrointestinal, urologic, thoracic, and gynecologic procedures," says Dr. Gumbs

How ViKY Works
ViKY holds and guides a thin, lighted tube and camera (a laparoscope). By stabilizing the laparoscope, the camera makes clear images of the surgical site. "Keeping the laparoscope and its camera still make it possible for us to clearly see important details," says Dr. Gumbs.  “For this reason, we can perform complex surgery in less time.”  He adds, "When surgeons have a clear image to study, their eyes don’t tire as quickly and they can perform longer, more complex operations more safely." Dr. Gumbs directs the robot using voice commands or a foot pedal. “It’s a beautiful thing,” he says. “I put on a wireless headset and tell ViKY where to move!”

ViKY also provides an extra hand so that surgeons can use surgical tools with both hands. Before ViKY, surgeons or their assistants held and steadied the laparoscope, which was tiring especially during long surgeries.

Better Patient Outcomes 
“The robot is especially useful for obese patients and those with lung problems who can’t tolerate a large incision,” says Dr. Gumbs.

In addition, ViKY, unlike other robotic devices,  can be completely sterilized so that it can be in contact with the patient. “Because it's sterile, I can perform more complex surgeries that have a high risk of bleeding," says Dr. Gumbs. "If necessary," he adds, "the surgeon can insert a hand into the patient's abdominal cavity to feel structures such as a beating artery. “You can’t always see a vital blood vessel,” says Dr. Gumbs. “Sometimes the only way you can avoid cutting it is by feeling it.”

With traditional open surgery, Mr. McGroary would have had a large incision and long recovery. "With ViKY," he says, “I commuted to New York City for work just a month after my surgery!" He adds, “I’m doing really well and I have no pain. I’m happy this is behind me!”

For more information or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Gumbs,
please call Summit Medical Group Surgical Oncology
at 908-277-8950.