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Carlisle woman undergoes world’s first robotic ALIF spine surgery

By Naomi Creason, Sentinel Reporter The Sentinel – cumberlink.com

A Carlisle woman and her physicians at PinnacleHealth hospital in Harrisburg made history this week for being the first in the world to perform a robotic-assisted Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion surgery.

Surgeons used the da Vinci Si Surgical System, a device already used in a number of different types of surgeries but none involving the spine. The system allows surgeons to see the inside of the body on a three-dimensional plane, providing multi-angle views.

ALIF is a common surgery for various conditions, such as degenerative disc disease. The surgery stabilizes the anterior lumbar (lower) spine by fusing the bones together permanently, either with a bone graft or an implantable cage. The new robotic approach to ALIF surgery offers a minimally invasive alternative to the traditional surgery, which typically involves a longer hospital stay and more blood loss.

“Instead of approaching the spine through a relatively large abdominal incision, we were able to use the da Vinci robot to expose the spine and then use its better imaging capabilities to replace the disc,” general surgeon Dr. Luciano DiMarco said. “We have extensive experience in performing this procedure laparoscopically, but we wanted the da Vinci robot to take us one step further. We made history.”

DiMarco, neurosurgeon Dr. William Beutler, and orthopedic and spine surgeon Dr. Walter Peppelman worked collaboratively with the da Vinci system to perform the first ever spinal fusion surgery on Victoria Siekerman, 52, of Carlisle. DiMarco used the da Vinci robot to expose the spine, safely moving the bowels and blood vessels so that Beutler and Peppelman could replace her diseased disc with an implant.

The surgery took two hours and 15 minutes from incision to closure, which is comparable with traditional surgery times, but there were no complications and no incision longer than 1 1/2 inches. That meant Siekerman went home the day after surgery – 48 hours less than the recovery for traditional surgery.

“Vicki did extremely well,” Beutler said. “She was discharged from the hospital the day after surgery, a two-day decrease in the normal length of stay. Overall, patients will experience less blood loss, less pain and a shorter recovery time and still have a great outcome.”

It was certainly an improvement for Siekerman, who started experiencing back pain two years ago.

“Everything hurt — standing, sitting — and I had difficulty working,” she said. “I’m surprised and grateful by how well I feel only 24 hours after surgery. The surgeons spent a lot of time talking to me about the da Vinci robot, and it gave me confidence that this was my best choice. I’m hopeful that others will benefit from my being first.”

Since 2006, PinnacleHealth’s surgeons have used the da Vinci Robotic System for more than 1,300 surgeries in a variety of minimally invasive procedures, including cardiac, general, gynecological and urological. PinnacleHealth also performs more than 1,600 inpatient spine procedures each year.

Copyright 2012 The Sentinel – cumberlink.com.

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