Robotic surgery and children

Seven's On Call with Dr. Jay Adlersberg
October 21, 2008 12:53:09 PM PDT
Robotic surgery is the latest and greatest tool in the operating room. In many cases, it means smaller incisions and quicker recovery times. But until recently, it was primarily used for adults. Now, robotic arms are working their surgical magic on a new set of smaller patients.

Robots are no longer just part of the space age. They've made their way into the present age, now helping doctors save children's lives.

"It happened on Thanksgiving," Martha Umana said. "It happened on her birthday, on Christmas."

Some of the best of days in the Umana household turned into the worst.

"Her fever would go up to 105 and she would just go into a seizure," Martha said.

Kaila suffered from a condition called hydronephrosis, an obstruction of the urinary track, which can cause chronic kidney infections. The only cure is surgery. Luckily, a robot named the Da Vinci helped doctors operate more precisely and less invasively on Kaila's tiny body. They move the robot's arms with a controller, using a telescopic lens as a guide.

"We would require about a five-inch incision in the abdomen," said Dr. Waldo Feng, a pediatric urology surgeon at Sunrise Children's Hospital in Las Vegas. "Now, the surgery is done using two small incisions about a dime each in size and one small incision in the belly button."

The robotic surgery means children go home with their parents sooner.

"It was like the best thing, because she was only in the hospital about two days," Martha said.

Children as young as 5 months old have successfully undergone robotic surgery. The Da Vinci is also used to operate on children's kidneys, esophagus and lungs. With a quicker recovery, Kaila is back to what's important -- being a kid.

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STORY BY: Medical reporter Dr. Jay Adlersberg


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