Munson Medical Center in Traverse City now has a laparoscopic device called the da Vinci Robot that can perform surgeries that are far more complex than previous generations of laparoscopic machines were able to perform.

We can thank the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA—the same people who gave us the Internet) for first developing the concept of performing complex surgery with remotely controlled robots. The military wanted to enable highly trained surgeons safely behind battle lines to immediately operate on wounded soldiers on the battlefield. The military version has yet to be perfected (portability continues to be a problem), but a version of the technology has made its way into a handful of hospitals across America, including Munson Medical Center.

The two chief advancements, explains Dr. Kurt Wright, is that the tool displays imagery in 3D instead of 2D and it is “wristed,” that is, whereas other laparoscopic arms are straight sticks with grips on the ends, the da Vinci Robot can maneuver with seven degrees of motion. “You can sew, tie knots, cut, go around objects,” Wright says. “Imagine tying your shoes with chopsticks versus your hands—wristed instruments make all the difference.”

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The chief benefit to patients is that some surgeries that previously involved very invasive techniques and resulting long recovery periods can now be performed in a much less invasive way. That means faster recovery time, less pain, less risk of infection and lower risk of blood loss—all benefits already proven with previous generations of laparoscopic surgery.

Surgeries now able to be performed at Munson using the da Vinci Robot include hysterectomies, myomectomies (removing fibroid tumors in the uterus), prostectomies and mitral valve replacement in cardiac surgery. A team in New Jersey has performed kidney transplants with the equipment.

For some medical wow factor, Wright suggests viewing a video on YouTube that shows the da Vinci Robot doing miniature origami. Search Google for: origami with da Vinci Robot. 231-935-5000,

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