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Robotic Surgery Decreases Pain, Hospital Stay

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Christa Dean Hild 
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Panama City, Forida  Mickey Kirksey joked that when he went in for major lung surgery on a Monday morning, the next day the hospital staff told his pastor, who came for a visit, that he already had gone home.

The successful thoracotomy was performed using the da Vinci surgical robot, which made Kirksey’s recovery quick and with a minimal amount of pain.

“I went into surgery Monday morning and I was home and in bed Tuesday night,” Kirksey said. “I was very pleased and I would recommend the da Vinci procedure to other patients.”

A traditional thoracic procedure normally requires a patient to remain in the hospital for about a week.

“If you do the research and look at what a traditional thoracotomy can do … some patients can have lingering pain,” Kirksey said. “I’ve had no residual pain and I had a quick recovery.”

Kirksey had a thoracic procedure performed at Bay Medical Center by Dr. Reed Finney to remove a cancerous part of his lung. A traditional thoracic procedure essentially includes opening a patient from the side, splitting the patient’s ribs and operating on the organs inside the chest cavity.

“A thoracotomy is the opening of the chest,” Finney said. “It can be large or small but most people think of it as a large opening. If we can have small incisions that decreases the length of the patient’s stay and decreases their pain.”

When Kirksey learned he was going to have the procedure in July, he did some Internet research and was frightened by what he read — at least until he learned he was a candidate for the da Vinci robot-assisted procedure. Instead of having a large incision, he had several small incisions.

“I show people my scars and joke that I was in a knife fight,” Kirksey said.

Finney said he started using robotic surgery for thoracic procedures as early as 2006. Updated tools and attachments for the da Vinci surgical robot have allowed Finney of Coastal Cardiovascular Surgeons and his partner Dr. Gregory England to start performing more procedures using robotic assistance. Finney and England are the only cardiothoracic surgeons in the area.

There are no additional costs for a patient to have a da Vinci procedure. Although the da Vinci equipment is expensive, the cost is offset by fewer nights in the hospital.

Finney and England perform on average two to three of the da Vinci-assisted thoracotomies a month and have operated on more than a dozen patients with the da Vinci.

The benefits of performing the procedure with the da Vinci is the recovery time for patients and pain control. Kirksey said he was able to return to work two weeks after leaving the hospital.

“If you can have it done robotically, that is the way to go,” Finney said.