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Surgeons perform AF’s first robotic surgery

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. (AFNS) -- Members of the 81st Surgical Operations Squadron performed the Air Force’s first robotic surgery at the Keesler Medical Center here March 28, 2017.

Maj. Lauren Buck, an 81st MSGS general surgeon, and her surgical team performed a robotic ventral hernia repair. Surgeons used the da Vinci Xi robot, which enhances their mobility and range of motion.

Buck has experience with the da Vinci Si model, but this was a little different because it is a newer model with slight upgrades.

“My first robotic surgery went well,” Buck said. “It made the surgery easier, visualization was much better, and the da Vinci Xi has more dexterity, which is great.”

The da Vinci Xi robot system, which cost approximately $2 million, translates the surgeon’s hand motions into smaller more precise movements. The robot’s tiny instruments create more internal space inside the patient’s body during the operation. In addition, robotic surgery decreases risk of surgical site infections while giving the surgeon better visibility and dexterity when operating, which improves the surgical procedure overall.

“Patient’s safety is paramount and using robotic surgery procedures shortens recovery time, makes the procedure less painful, requires smaller incisions and it is very beneficial for the patient post operation,” said Col. Constance Jackson, the 81st MSGS commander.

The first patient operated on was able to leave the hospital the same day as their surgery.

Although the da Vinci is physically inside the patient performing the operation, the surgeon is 100 percent in control of the system at all times. The robot has a thin tube with a tiny camera on the end sending images to a video monitor in the operating room that guides doctors during surgery.

“Before we would have to outsource our patients to other medical facilities, but now we will be able to perform the surgeries and gain back our population,” said Lt. Col. Rochelle Haynes, the 81st MSGS flight commander. “We are now able to perform more procedures and do less outsourcing.”

Currently, the Defense Department has 22 da Vinci robot systems. Members of the 81st Medical Group will begin training joint service surgeons at the General Medical Education Institute here next week.

There are 29 surgeons scheduled to attend the training who will each have a nurse and a technician to accompany them. The instructors will teach the surgical teams how to operate the da Vinci robotic system.

“Our mission is to train, teach and treat,” said 2nd Lt. Nina Hoskins, an 81st MSGS registered nurse. “We are training surgeons throughout DoD. We are teaching our residents how to use the equipment and now we are treating our patients to the standard of care of our counterparts all with implementing robotic surgery.”