Argentina Begins Training On Advanced Equipment For Robotic Surgery

By Dialogo
May 06, 2009

Argentina has launched a training program in robotic surgery open to foreign doctors after incorporating two of the most advanced pieces of remote operating equipment into its public health system. They expect to train four physicians each year in the Federico Abete hospital, in the town of Malvinas Argentinas, where "Da Vinci" robotic equipment has been used since the beginning of the month, sources from that district of the northern outskirts of Buenos Aires told EFE today. Only five of those machines - which were developed by the military - are in Latin American hospitals. "Da Vinci" is a platform for computer-aided robotic surgery controlled remotely using a console and display screen, explained Colombian doctor Luis Angulo, who is chief of Urology at that hospital in Buenos Aires, and one of the four specialists trained to operate the equipment. Three of the robotic system’s arms manipulate specially-designed surgical instruments, and a fourth arm carries a probe with two tiny three-dimensional, high-resolution video cameras. The robotic arms enable great precision in every movement of an operation, and the video probe allows the surgeon to operate "as if he were inside the patient," said Angulo. He emphasized that the surgeon may choose to magnify images up to 20 times without losing sharpness and the instruments allow initial incisions mere millimeters long. Robotic surgery reduces the risk of infection, blood loss, and postoperative pain, and the size of scars, thus ensuring faster recovery, he said. "Conventional surgery begins with incisions 15 to 20 centimeters long for the patient, and that causes more pain and longer recovery time," he explained. The instruments used "on the patient's body neither tremble nor tire, and have an amazing ability to enter cavities where the human hand cannot reach," he said. This robotic equipment, installed in a new building attached to hospital Federico Abete, can be used in about 10,000 surgical procedures, but they are generally used mainly in cardiac, thoracic, and abdominal surgery, and particularly in gynecology and urology. The incorporation of this technology has meant an investment of more than $8 million, which is funded by the town of Malvinas Argentinas, which is home to about 350,000 inhabitants. "We wanted to be innovative and also advance in the development of robotic surgery, on the criteria of assisting both those who can afford it and those who cannot," said the mayor of Malvinas Argentinas, Jesus Cariglino. This municipality of the province of Buenos Aires is making arrangements to train doctors from other districts of this country and from foreign institutions. There are about 2,000 "Da Vinci" systems in operation, of which approximately 1,000 are installed in the U.S., another 800 in European countries, and five in Latin America, according to official information. Doctors are considered to be properly trained to operate these systems after they have used them at least twenty times, while the "reliability threshold" is reached after performing hundreds of operations. Health authorities in Malvinas Argentinas suppose that such equipment will be used in a thousand operations each year at a cost of $10,000 each on average, compared to the $50,000 cost incurred in the U.S. The development of the "Da Vinci" system began in the military in the early 1980s, after a contract between the U.S. Department of Defense and the SRI International firm was signed.