American Consequences - September 2018

A few years ago, Ron Tourdot received an unusual offer.

Instead, they make holes the size of pencils along the ribcage that allow the surgeon to insert instruments and cables with cameras into the chest. Through a monitor, the surgeon can see a high-definition 3D image and is able to use the instruments with incredible dexterity and precision. Incredibly, these instruments can move like your wrist. Doctors can move the instruments at angles and into tiny places. That sort of thing would be impossible for a surgeon using a scalpel. With the cameras magnifying the view, the surgeon’s hands out of the way, and the robotic surgeon’s smaller, more flexible instruments, doctors have much greater control, dexterity, and precision over the patient’s organs. The team at the University of Wisconsin hospital operated on Ron on a Thursday. He was walking the next day. And he went home on Sunday, just three days after heart surgery. He was back at work less than two weeks after the procedure. He was lifting truck parts and changing tires just like he was two weeks earlier. Stories like Ron’s are incredible. And they show how far technology is advancing health care.

As a truck mechanic, Ron’s work is physically demanding. He is constantly changing truck tires and lifting heavy engine parts. And when he discovered that he needed a coronary-bypass surgery, you can imagine his dismay. For this surgery, the sternum – the long flat bone in the middle of your chest – needs to be literally broken open. Then a doctor needs to operate on the heart. Ron worried how soon he would be able to return to work. He didn’t have the luxury of unlimited vacation. Open heart surgery takes months to recover from. Some patients take years to fully use their arms and shoulders again. They must restrict themselves from doing any labor-intensive work. And that’s not to mention the possible health complications. Not only would Ron be out of commission... he’d also be out of work. But this is the 21st century. Open heart surgery isn’t the only option anymore. When Ron visited the hospital in Madison, Wisconsin, cardio surgeon Dr. Lucian Lozonschi offered him the best alternative... robotic-assisted beating-heart surgery. Robotic surgery is much more precise. Doctors don’t need to split open the sternum.

44 September 2018

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