San Angelo Community Medical Center: 1,000 Robotic Surgeries Going Strong
SAN ANGELO, TX – Yesterday marked another technological feat for San Angelo Community Medical Center. Since the inception of the hospital’s robotics program nearly three years ago, hospital staff celebrated the 1,000 robotic surgery, which they deem “a significant milestone.”
To celebrate the 1,000 robotic surgery, LIVE! and a few other members of the press were invited to SACMC to find out more about what this instrumental technology has done for the Concho Valley.
“When we first invested in this robotic surgical system, our goal was for our patients to be able to stay closer to home when facing complex surgical procedures,” said Jeremy Riney, CEO of SACMC. “We have surpassed that number of surgeries we estimated we would have at this time, and are very pleased to have reached 1,000 surgeries, so we are celebrating today. Our surgeons have worked hard to become leaders in this technologically advanced field.”
The Robotically Trained Team
Currently, SACMC’s team of six robotically trained surgeons include:
- Dr. Clyde Henke, M.D., OB/GYN
- Dr. Rosalinda Carrizales, D.O., OB/GYN
- Dr. Genevieve Pfluger Mejia, M.D., OB/GYN
- Dr. Bryan Mejia, M.D., OB/GYN
- Dr. Glenn Ihde, M.D., General Surgery
- Dr. Brian Bradley, M.D., Urology
Additionally, Sheryl Pfluger, director of Marketing & Business at SACMC, said to meet the need for additional robotic-assisted surgery, SACMC added a second robot last December that enabled four SACMC orthopaedic surgeons to perform complex procedures with knee and hip surgeries. However, the new procedures are not counted in the 1,000 surgeries.
The orthopaedic surgeons robotically trained include:
- Robert Alexander, M.D.
- Jason Defee, M.D.
- James Mull, M.D.
- Joe Wilkinson, M.D.
Overall, the robotic systems allow surgeons to perform advanced minimally invasive surgeries with the assistance of robotic arms, Pfluger explained.
“During robotic-assisted surgery, the surgeon sits at a nearby console, performing the operation with wristed instruments that function like a surgeon’s hand while viewing a 3-dimensional, 10x magnification image of the patient’s body,” Pfluger said. “The jointed arms of the robot can move in ways that a laparoscope cannot, which means the procedures are much less invasive, allowing patients to heal quickly in most cases.”
In addition, robotic procedures entail less risk of bleeding and have less risk of infection.
All in all, robotically-assisted surgical procedures provide a minimally invasive approach to surgery that allows for shorter hospital stays, lower pain levels, less blood loss and shorter recovery times. Plus, there’s less chance of infection.
The procedures that benefit from this technology include hysterectomy, prostatectomy, kidney removal, partial kidney removal, gallbladder removal, hernia repair, fibroid removal, treatments for heavy bleeding, chronic pain, endometriosis and pelvic prolapse.
The Celebration of Technology
At yesterday’s celebration, Riney said he was proud of the team of surgeons who have used robotic surgery technology to help patients in the Concho Valley.
“Today is a great day,” he said. “We’re celebrating our 1,000 robotic case. Without a doubt, we wouldn’t have accomplished this today without a dedicated team of physicians who went through the training they needed to be at the point where we are today.”
Riney added that Dr. Henke, who partnered with SACMC back in 2013 when SACMC made the robotic technology investment, and who shared that vision, has “been very instrumental in helping us get to this point today.”
Dr. Henke said, about three years ago, his team did their first robotic case in San Angelo.
“We’re fortunate to have lot of broad special determinants: we have gynecology; we have urology; we have general surgery,” he noted. “We have been able to do many complex cases. For the longest time, we were the only robotic available certified facility in the Concho Valley. We are, and will remain for a long, long time, the most experienced robotic surgeons in the Concho Valley.”
With 1,000 cases, these physicians have a tremendous amount of experience, and they’re happy to have achieved that, and provide these services to their patients, Dr. Henke stated.
“With the robotic technology now, we’re able to so many of those cases robotically with just four tiny incisions a half inch long as opposed to large incisions. That translates into less pain, less blood loss, and where you can return to your daily functions in less time,” he continued.
That’s what this program has done for physicians in gynecology, Henke said.
“We are doing cases now with robotics that we would have never dreamed of doing in any other way than opening the abdomen,” he said. “More important to us than our competitive edge is what we’ve been able to do for our patients.”
The physicians, Dr. Henke added, are extremely impressed with results. To quantify that, he said, prior to the institution of robotic surgery, he had done an estimated 1,800 to 2,000 hysterectomies, either abdominally or vaginally with a laparoscope.
He continued, “Since we have started robotic surgery, I have done nothing but robotic hysterectomies. That is how impressed I am with the technology.”
Henke also said Dr. Mejia, Dr. Pfluger Mejia, Dr. Ihde and Dr. Bradly have been very instrumental in providing the services to the patients by giving them the benefit of not having to leave San Angelo.
Dr. Ihde said one of the reasons he came to Community about a year ago is because he believes technology helps physicians do their jobs better.
“It helps patients decrease the pain in recovery, and it’s clear this hospital has been dedicated to that,” he said. “Not only with the robotic program, but [also] with the other program we’ve done for reflux and bariatrics as well. So I’m very proud to be a part of the team, and I appreciate the opportunity that this hospital has given us.”
Dr. Pfluger Mejia said, at the OB/GYN level, physicians have been able to make tremendous advances with the advanced technology. She said she and Dr. Henke have worked together with other partners, and have “had super results in the surgeries they have been able to perform.”
“We are excited here at Community to offer this and offer our experience, and we will continue to do so,” she said.
She was also proud to announce that her husband, Dr. Bryan Mejia, was able to perform the 1,000 surgery.
Dr. Mejia reiterated that the technology has enabled physicians to proceed effectively with traditional cases that involved “opening patients up.” The traditional way prolonged recovery times and created more painful hurdles for patients to overcome.
“It’s certainly been an asset,” he said. “We look forward to continue to serve Concho Valley patients with the technology that we have afforded here.”
Dr. Mejia said he didn’t know he had officially completed the 1,000 surgery until he was told. He said that surgery was a complex case that went very well, and the patient had a fast recovery time.
Dr. Bradley, who was instrumental in adding a urological component to the program, and who Dr. Henke said kept many patients from having to leave San Angelo to have robotic treatment, which is the preferred treatment for prostate cancer, said, “Robotics have really taken over my specialty. Over 90 percent of prostate cancer surgery is performed robotically.”
Thus, he said it has made a huge impact on his field, probably more so than any other field for prostate and kidney surgery, which is performed across the country. He said this new technology has really changed the way he operates.
“I don’t really have to do much open surgery because of the advantages of handling those urological problems robotically,” Dr. Bradley noted.
The Technological Future
Dr. Bradley said, with this technology, smaller robotics and instruments will be developed, and, overall, the robotic platform gives physicians the instruments to try and simulate open surgery. The new technology will be the big difference in term of the instruments and compensation of the robotic platform.
Dr. Fluger Mejia said these instruments allow physicians to use small incisions, but with technology advancing surgical instruments, they’ll be able to insert even smaller incisions the patient will barely see.
Overall, Dr. Henke concluded that the physicians are thankful SACMC partnered with them to bring this technology to the Concho Valley.
He said, “With any new technology, one of the primary factors to consider that has resulted in this type of medicine is discipline and experience.”