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New surgical robot ‘Daryl’ now helping assist Sask. medical operations

Click to play video: 'Robot-Assisted surgeries on the way'
Robot-Assisted surgeries on the way
The da Vinci Surgical System reportedly offers less pain, faster recovery times, and lowers the risk of infection.  – Nov 25, 2022

Saskatchewan patients are now benefitting from a robotic-assisted surgical system that offers less pain, faster recovery times, and lowers the risk of infection.

The da Vinci Surgical System is the first of its kind in the province and has assisted in over two dozen surgeries since September.

“We are pleased that Saskatchewan patients and physicians can benefit from this innovative treatment option close to home,” Health Minister Paul Merriman said. “Having a robotic surgical program advances patient care and helps to develop and attract highly-skilled physicians.”

Up until now, the da Vinci has successfully performed a prostatectomy, nephrectomy, pyeloplasty, and cystectomy.

The da Vinci is controlled by specially trained surgeons and reportedly allows the surgery to be less invasive than a normal procedure.

With more research and practice, the da Vinci will hopefully expand to gynecology, oncology, thoracic surgery, and other specialties.

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The da Vinci Surgical System was purchased for roughly $2.5 million and completes the St. Paul’s Hospital Foundation capital campaign. The purchase of da Vinci was assisted by the Merlis Belsher family with a donation of $1.1 million. The robot is named “Daryl” in honour of Merlis Belsher’s late son.

Mark Turcott, a cancer patient, recently underwent a surgery by Daryl and said he had no concerns about going into the operating room.

“I knew I was in good hands. We had many discussions about what procedure even that I was going to pursue and then once that decision was made, all of the information and consequences that take place after the surgery, I was ok with everything. I had no concerns.”

Turcott said he would recommend any surgery with Daryl to anyone undergoing a procedure.

Doctor Varun Bathini, Surgical Robotics Program Lead, handled Turcott’s surgery with the assistance of Daryl.

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“The biggest application is anywhere we can do minimal invasive surgeries, so basically laparoscopic, or video-assisted surgery like they do in thoracics,” said Bathini, “that’s where robotic surgeries have been advantageous.”

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At a press conference at Saskatoon’s St. Paul Hospital, he explained some of the benefits of using Daryl versus performing surgery on his own.

“The 3D visualization that you get with the robotic surgery, the ability to manipulate the instruments with a 360 motion. This allows you to manipulate the tissues in much tighter spaces. We can offer this surgery to patients with a higher BMI (body mass index), patients with a more challenging anatomy,” he said.

“Certainly, I think we need to start looking at expanding to other centres in the province such as Regina,” said Bathini. “If thoracic surgery grows and our urology volume continues to be where it’s at there could be a potential for a second one.”

Bathini said that surgery with Daryl usually lasts one less day, but sometimes, it can save up to three to four days in a hospital bed.

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According to Andrew Will, Saskatchewan Health Authority’s CEO, these quicker recoveries will hopefully help address the overflow and understaffing of the health-care system.

“Not only will it help us serve patients, provide the highest quality of care for them, faster recovery times, but it will also help retain and recruit more surgeons and other staff to our province.

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“I certainly think the establishment of this program and the expertise in delivering it will allow us to see the full benefits of the program and have that ability to grow it over time as patients’ needs and technology (change).”

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