The sterile, chilly operating room at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is bustling with scrubbed-up hospital staff: Seven nurses and doctors. Fourteen watchful eyes.
And one robot. A half-ton, 7-foot-tall metal and plastic ’bot with four arms.
“OK, dock the robot!” a voice commands.
Nurse Melissa Jones — “Jonesy,” as she is called in the O.R. — is dwarfed by the massive Intuitive Surgical Inc. “da Vinci” robot as she wheels it into position, its four articulated arms looming high over the anesthetized patient. Surgeons had spent 90 minutes cutting away the fibrous remnants of scar tissue left from previous procedures. Now it’s time to begin the nitty-gritty of the five-hour surgery.
Paul Clauss, 77, of Winthrop, is having a potentially cancerous polyp removed from his small intestine before it can wreak havoc on the rest of his organs. The remoteness of the polyp makes it a good candidate for a robot’s precision and dexterity in the confined space within Clauss’ abdomen.
The surgeons also plan to remove his gallbladder, full of painful stones, although given the routine nature of that procedure they admit that using the robot is “a bit like killing a fly with nuclear weapons.”
In this case, the weapons of choice are the 8 mm instruments of the massive, seemingly miraculous yet highly controversial da Vinci surgical robot — which has no shortage of critics, as well as thousands of complaints to the Food and Drug Administration in the 14 years since the earliest version was introduced.
But Dr. James Moser, a surgeon at BIDMC who is performing Clauss’ procedure, swears by it. It has transformed the way he does his job, he says.
“People accept robotics in their life all the time,” Moser told the Herald ahead of Clauss’ surgery. “We have drones — robots blowing up enemies, robots flying planes. This is just a way to improve surgeons’ ability to do minimally invasive surgery.”
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