Tri-City Wellness Center rolls out its robots

Tri-City Wellness Center rolls out its robots
Adin Ackerman, 9, of Encinitas, said he’d like to one day build a robot like the da Vinci Robotic Surgery System, which is used for cardiothoracic, gynecology, urology and general procedures. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

CARLSBAD — More than 300 people were on hand for a June 30 open house at Tri-City Wellness Center that offered aesthetic laser demonstrations, heart and blood pressure monitoring, massages and Zumba and RPM cycling classes. 

But the most popular event was a hands-on robotics exhibit that allowed visitors to test their skills as a surgeon, albeit on toys rather than intestines.

“It’s quite intriguing,” said La Costa resident Dede Morse, who lost her vision in one eye. “I have problems with depth perception but I could still use it. I fumbled a little bit at first but it was fairly easy.”

Tri-City Medical Center is one of a handful of West Coast hospitals using the da Vinci Robotic Surgical System for cardiothoracic, gynecology, urology and general procedures.

Although called a robot, the da Vinci can’t act on its own. Doctors use their hand movements to control small, precise instruments inside the body.

The robot, equipped with a camera that provides 3-D magnified vision, can move in more directions than traditional laparoscopic instruments.

Patient benefits include shorter hospital stays, smaller incisions, minimal scarring, less pain and blood loss, a lower risk of complications and infection and quicker recovery times.

Physicians have improved vision, can move the instruments better and get into smaller spaces more easily, said Adam Fierer, M.D., chairman of Tri-City’s surgery department.

“There is also a decrease in surgeon fatigue and physical strain, especially during a five-hour surgery,” he said. “It makes the process so much easier.”

While many of the parents attending the open house had hopes the state-of-the-art technology might encourage their children to become doctors, some of the youngsters had other aspirations.

“I want to build one of these,” 9-year-old Adin Ackerman of Encinitas said. “It felt weird at first but it was really fun when I learned how to use it efficiently. I need a robot like this.”

“It’s good,” 5-year-old Justus Byrnes said after trying out the da Vinci. “I want to build one.”

Also on display was the Mazor Renaissance guidance robot used for spine surgery.

“The robot facilitates accurate screw placement for spinal procedures,” Jason Carl, a Mazor sales representative said. “It executes the preplanning so essentially the doctor can do the procedure before getting to the operating room.”

The Renaissance robot can be used for scoliosis, slipped vertebrae, spinal stenosis, vertebroplasty and previous procedures that failed to meet the planned outcome. It is minimally invasive and results in faster recovery, less pain and fewer scars and complications.

Tri-City is the only hospital in San Diego County, and one of only about a dozen in the nation, currently using the Renaissance robot.

“I hope I never need it but I would consider it,” said Chuck Bernstein, a Carlsbad resident who once suffered from back-pain issues.

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