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Shoppers 'Test-Drive' Surgical Robot at the Mall

Surgeons show shoppers how to operate the da Vinci robot that performs surgery.

Shoppers at The Mall at Short Hills were able to take a break from the holiday bustle on Saturday to pretend to be doctors performing robotic surgeries.

Using a camera and controls to operate the slender arms of a surgical robotic, they learned how to manuever to remove tiny rubber bands, pick up a penny and sew stitches. They were also able to use another simulator to perform video versions of the tasks and get graded on their efforts.

Visitors to the Saint Barnabas Medical Center booth at the mall were “test driving” da Vinci® Robotic Surgical System by Intuitive Surgical, brought to the mall for the day so that the public could see the strides made in medical robotics.

Physicians who specialize in robotic surgery were available at the display throughout the day. Drs. Jen Graf and Mike LaSalle took the morning shift. Dr. Graf is an OBGYN, who says robotics has really changed a lot of surgeries and recovery times – particularly hysterectomies, and surgeries for cancers and tumors.

“It’s so much less invasive,” she said. “And patients recover so much more quickly, in some cases going home the next day.”

Dr. LaSalle, a urologist whose group practice has performed more than 4,000 robotic surgeries, says robotics has also really changed the way surgeons do things. He showed shoppers who stopped by how the robotic arms eliminate tremor that humans can have.

“We really thought it would be a great way for the public to see what we do,” he said.

LaSalle also works with the Landroids robotics team of the Livingston Robotics Club and has students help the come up with robotic solutions to different questions.

“One of them, a 15-year-old, is going to shadow me next week,” he said. “What these kids come up with is terrific. They really get it.”

John F. Bonano, Executive Director at Saint Barnabas Medical Center, said the day at the mall was “a tremendous opportunity for the public to see and ‘test drive’ the robot. The da Vinci System has transformed the way certain surgeries are performed and we want to raise awareness.”

The da Vinci Robotic Surgical System has been at the Medical Center for more than four years.

Dave Janke, a clinical rep for Intuitive, normally trains doctors in how to use the robots for surgery. On Saturday, he trained children through retirees.                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Physicians at Saint Barnabas use it for general surgery, gynecologic surgery, gynecologic oncology and adult urology. Some of the advantages to robotic surgery including significantly less pain, fewer side effects, less scarring, shorter recovery period and faster return to normal activities.


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