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Medicine: USC surgeons remove tumor with da Vinci robot

Ross Bremner sits at the controls of the da Vinci Surgical System during the July 13 surgery to remove a tumor from a patient’s chest.

Photo by Alicia Di Rado

USC surgeons, who earlier this year performed three delicate heart operations using the da Vinci surgical robot, recently became the first in the world to remove a tumor from deep within a patient’s chest.

Ross Bremner, USC assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery, painstakingly carved a benign tumor from patient Daniel Gutierrez’s spine – while seated eight feet away.

“I’m even more convinced today that this instrument is going to revolutionize our approach to some thoracic surgical diseases,” Bremner said after the July 13 operation. “The surgery went extremely well, and blood loss was minimal.”

Bremner used the da Vinci Surgical System to operate on Gutierrez remotely by manipulating hand-held controls and pushing foot pedals, all while watching the patient’s organs magnified before him on a three-dimensional video screen at a computer console.

The surgical tools and a slender video camera were mounted onto the three arms of the 1,000-pound da Vinci robot positioned beside the patient. Bremner and surgical partner Daniel Schwartz, USC assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery, inserted the instrument’s rotating tips and camera into the patient’s torso through small holes in the skin.

USC’s da Vinci robot – nicknamed “Maximus” – perfectly mimicked Bremner’s hand movements deep within the patient’s chest.

Traditional surgery for this procedure involves splitting the chest between the ribs. That means a long incision, and patients usually stay in the hospital from five to seven days.

Patient Gutierrez had developed a tumor about the size of a small orange next to his spine. Such slow-growing, benign tumors, though rare, may be detected through routine chest X-rays. “It had probably been growing for years and years,” said Bremner.

The mass had several lobes, and because of its complexity and size, Bremner said he would not have been able to remove it with standard thoracoscopy instruments.

Gutierrez was able to leave University Hospital only three days after the operation, with the advice that he could most likely return to work two weeks later.

The revolutionary surgery drew attention from a variety of physicians and other observers, including Cedric G. Bremner, USC professor of clinical surgery and father of the younger Bremner; and a Los Angeles Times medical reporter and photographer.

USC is one of several U.S. sites in a Food and Drug Administration-approved trial to evaluate the use of the da Vinci Surgical System to repair the heart’s mitral valve.

The da Vinci Surgical System is a product of Intuitive Surgical, based in Mountain View, Calif.

Medicine: USC surgeons remove tumor with da Vinci robot

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