Lutheran Leads in Surgical Innovation

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Leading-edge technology, training and techniques help patients achieve rapid recovery

For a patient, no surgery is ever “routine.” But at Lutheran Medical Center, surgeons such as Eben Strobos, MD, are on the forefront of making all surgeries safer, more effective, and faster and easier to recover from.

Robots Extend a Surgeon’s Reach

Dr. Strobos specializes in colon and rectal surgeries, bowel repair and other operations involving the abdominal organs. He performs many of these procedures with the assistance of a robotic surgical system consisting of a console and four robotic arms that are equipped with slim surgical instruments and tiny laparoscopic cameras that can be inserted through small incisions.

Dr. Strobos sits at the console a few feet away from the patient, watching a magnified, three-dimensional view of the surgical site and controlling the robotic arms located by the patient’s side. Every movement of his fingers translates into an even more precise motion of the robotic arms and instruments in real time.

Dr. Strobos emphasizes that the robot does not substitute for surgical skill. Rather, it enhances the physical capabilities of a surgeon’s eyes and hands.

It gives us a much better view of the operating field than is possible with traditional laparoscopic surgery,” he says. “And because it has four arms, with instruments that are more flexible than the human hand, we have better dexterity and the ability to cut, suture and staple without harming nerves or healthy tissue.

According to our data, patients who have robotic surgery have shorter hospital stays and lower complication rates than patients who undergo traditional laparoscopic or open procedures,” Dr. Strobos says. In 2017, he performed 140 robotic colorectal surgeries.

Former patients, primary care physicians and surgeons are all spreading the word about the success of Lutheran’s robotic surgery program. And as a surgeon training site for robotic colorectal surgery (the first and only one of its kind in Colorado), Lutheran is helping to bring this technology to hospitals around the country.

Easing Recovery

Ensuring a successful surgery and recovery goes beyond using advanced equipment. It requires a focused effort from the entire surgical team and patients themselves, before and after they enter the operating room. To get patients back on their feet faster, Lutheran has instituted Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) protocols.

In general, ERAS involves the following five steps:

  • Educating patients before their procedures about postoperative instructions (rather than right after surgery, when they are less likely to remember)
  • Standardizing anesthesia management to minimize narcotic medications and help prevent postop nausea and vomiting
  • Providing optimal pain management, with minimal use of narcotics, in the hours after surgery
  • Helping patients eat, drink and walk as soon as possible after their procedures
  • Closely monitoring patients after they leave the hospital and proactively addressing any issues to avoid readmission

“Lutheran was one of the first hospitals in the area to institute enhanced recovery protocols for colorectal surgery, which has helped shorten hospital stays, decreased complications and increased patient satisfaction,” Dr. Strobos says.

“We’re proud to be on the leading edge of surgical technology, training and techniques,” he adds. “But more importantly, we’re happy that our patients have come through these complex procedures and thrived.”

SCREENING IS IMPORTANT! Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common type of cancer in men and women. Beginning at age 50, you should begin screenings for colon cancer. If you are at an increased risk of colorectal cancer, you may need to start screenings before age 50 or be screened more often. Speak with your doctor about the appropriate preventive health options for you.