NILES - Eastwood Mall shoppers were testing their surgical skills Saturday, working on the latest robotic equipment available to hospitals and doctors seeking to improve success rates and the turn-around time for their patients.
St. Joseph Health Center staged the demonstrations in the mall's main concourse to show off the da Vinci surgical robot and a simulator that allows surgeons at a console to view a monitor, or a patient, and maneuver tiny surgical instruments that perform the procedures from a distance.
Using their own hands and fingers attached to controls and their feet on different pedals, surgeons are using the robots for as many as 15 minimally invasive procedures.
Tribune Chronicle / Christopher Bobby
The $2 million worth of equipment arrived at St. Joseph on April 13 when Dr. Anthony DeSalvo performed the first of what has been 150 separate surgeries.
This week the hospital is taking delivery on the latest upgrade of the same robotic equipment supplied by Intuitive Surgical, the Silicon Valley company that manufactures the robot.
Originally, the equipment was developed by the Department of Defense for medical treatment during wartime. Surgeons in Germany can perform operations on soldiers injured still in Iraq.
Dr. Robert Woodruff, a general surgeon, says the robot-assisted surgery takes laparoscopic procedures to a new level.
With the tiny robotic arms, Woodruff can initiate suction, incisions, irrigation, staples and sutures. The machine can cauterize a vein. He uses it in his bariatric procedures the way DeSalvo performs hysterectomies.
''Besides increasing surgical volume, you can get the patient back to work quickly,'' Woodruff said. It decreases the chance of infection and eventually can cut costs with the shorter hospital stays.
The manufacturer gains input from the surgeons, and Intuitive is making changes and adapting to changes sought by the doctors.
Tina Petiya, who works for Cortland Banks, said she had a hysterectomy performed Oct. 3 at the hospital and through robotic-assisted surgery. ''I was back to work in less than 10 days. There was much less pain,'' she said.
The possibilities are unlimited, according to Bob Armintrout of Champion, who said as an Air Force medic in South America in the early 1980s, all he had was a field phone to confer with a doctor in Panama to do much easier treatments.
Now, a delicate operation can be pulled off from anywhere in the world.
St. Joseph even invited students to a special preview of the equipment Saturday, allowing the teens to try their hand to a more advanced video game.
''This is different from a video game. You get feedback immediately and you get the precise feel of what you're doing,'' said Sam Elliott, a junior at Warren Harding, who scored a 94 percent on the simulator on his first try.