Surgeons at Sentara Heart Hospital Perform States First Robotic Major Thoracic Surgeries
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Surgeons at Sentara Heart Hospital Perform States First Robotic Major Thoracic Surgeries 

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Norfolk, VA - December 11, 2006 - Surgeons at Sentara Heart Hospital recently performed the states first robotic major thoracic procedures using the daVinci surgical robot. The three procedures two robotic lobectomies removing tumors from lung cancer patients and one surgery to remove a mass from the thymus glandare innovative new procedures designed to minimize trauma to patients.

Dr. Joseph Newton, cardiothoracic surgeon and medical director of the thoracic surgery program at Sentara Heart Hospital, completed the three robotic procedures after Thanksgiving. The goal is the same as traditional surgery, Newton said.

"You're working to remove the tumor cleanly. But the robot lets you do it with a much smaller incision, allowing us to accomplish better quality surgery with less trauma to the chest wall," he explained.

This innovative procedure equates to quicker recovery time for patients, like Eugene Kwiatkowski of Virginia Beach. Kwiatkowski was the first patient to undergo a robotic thoracic procedure at Sentara Heart Hospital. Diagnosed with thymomaa usually benign tumor of the thymus gland located in the upper chest just below the neck, Kwiatkowski underwent robotic thoracic surgery on November 29.

"With just a one inch incision, Dr. Newton went in and removed a mass about the size of a tennis ball," Kwiatkowski said. "I had no symptoms before the mass was discovered, and now that it has been removed, I'm doing fine," he added. 

He acknowledged the team of doctors and nurses who cared for him during his surgery and recuperation at the hospital. Norfolk's heart hospital is a really good thing for this community.

"The surgical team, the nurses, the anesthesiologists, the doctors - everyone who cared for me was terrific," he said.

Likewise, Clarestine Adkinson, of Hampton was one of the first two patients to receive a robotic thoracic lobectomy, to remove tumors from her lungs. She was impressed with the minimally invasive nature of the procedure.

"When I found out about the robot, I was glad to have it done," Adkinson said. "I trusted Dr. Newton as a specialist. I spent only three days in the hospital, and now that Im home I feel like I can do anything I want to do," she said.

Adkinson, who turns 65 in a few weeks, believes that the two small incisions she received contributed to her speedy recovery. Having two small cuts by the robot versus one big cut with surgery without the robot was a big help.

"Dr. Newton said he had never seen anyone recover as quickly as I did," she said.

With traditional thorocotomy, you must do a seven or eight inch incision and remove a rib, Newton said. But in the robotic procedures, patients had incisions only one to two inches long and theres considerably less trauma to the patient.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States for both men and women. According to the American Cancer Society, more people die of lung cancer than of colon, breast, cervix and prostate cancer combined.

The thoracic surgery team at Sentara Heart Hospital hopes to turn that statistic around.

We have a multidisciplinary team that includes oncologists, pulmonologists, nurses, nurse practitioners, anesthesiologists and surgeons. Our goal is to provide a treatment plan and begin treatment within 10 days of a patients referral to us, Newton said. Early detection and treatment is critical to long-term survival of cancer patients.

State-of-the-art procedures such as robotic lobectomies are just one part of the services performed at Sentara Heart Hospitals thoracic surgery program. There is extensive pre- and post-operative education of patients, with established clinical protocols. Surgeons at Sentara Heart Hospital expect to use the robotic procedures primarily for esophageal work, lung cancer and other types of complex thoracic surgeries that cant be done at community hospitals.

Sentaras Heart Hospital is also only one of two programs in the state that tracks its quality thoracic outcomes against data from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons. We know what our results are against the national standard, Newton said. For the past two years, we have a zero mortality for lobectomy versus a national two percent morality rate. Most patients treated surgically for lung cancer have a lobectomy (which is the removal of one of the lungs five lobes.)


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