Robotic lung surgery, a minimally invasive technique that has advantages over traditional surgical methods, is now benefiting patients at Franciscan Health Crown Point.
Thoracic surgery specialist Jason Fitzgerald, MD, began performing lung procedures in June 2021 using the da Vinci Xi surgical system from Intuitive Surgical, Inc. Many of the surgeries he’s done have been on cancer patients. “You can do more complex procedures with smaller incisions, so they recover faster and have less pain,” Dr. Fitzgerald said.
Traditional open surgery requires the surgeon to make a large incision in the chest and then spread the ribs to see the lung directly. “It’s pretty painful and there’s more blood loss,” Dr. Fitzgerald said. Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) is less invasive, using smaller incisions to insert a camera and surgical instruments. However, Dr. Fitzgerald said the instruments in VATS are limited in their mobility and the visualization is just two-dimensional.
The da Vinci technology has multiple arms and a high-definition 3D camera that are inserted through small incisions. The operator sits at a control console next to the bed in the operating room and controls the movement of the robot.
“Basically, you’re looking through a camera inside the patient. It’s 3D and has a huge amount of detail, much more than you can get on a flat screen,” Dr. Fitzgerald said. “The robot translates your hand movements, and it’s just like having miniature versions of your hand inside the patient.”
Dr. Fitzgerald said the robotic surgery system has been useful for lung cancer procedures and infections in the pleural space around the lungs. He’s done biopsies and removed cysts from lungs. “Basically, anything in the chest outside the heart we can use it for,” he added.
The result is that a lung cancer patient having a lobe of the lung removed can be discharged from the hospital two or three days after surgery. The average hospitalization is about five days for open surgery with a thoracotomy incision.
Lung cancer is the deadliest type of cancer, killing more people than breast, colon and prostate cancers combined. With early detection, however, up to 90 percent can be cured. Franciscan Health offers $49 screening specials, including a lung scan that can provide early detection of lung cancer before any symptoms develop.
A lung scan is recommended for those over age 50, a current or former smoker, have averaged smoking at least a pack of cigarettes per day for 20 years and do not have signs or symptoms of lung cancer. To schedule a screening, go online at FranciscanHealth.org/ScreeningBundles or call (888) 895-8774.
Dr. Fitzgerald is accepting new patients at Franciscan Physician Network Cardiology Crown Point, 1205 S. Main St., Suite 101. For more information or to make an appointment, call (219) 662-0077.