Peninsula surgeon achieves milestone in robotic surgery

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Friday, December 3, 2021
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Silicon Valley is raising the bar for robotic surgery as the technology looks to incorporate augmented reality and artificial intelligence.

REDWOOD CITY, Calif. (KGO) -- Silicon Valley is raising the bar for robotic surgery and setting milestones as the technology looks to incorporate augmented reality and artificial intelligence to help surgeons.

Redwood City resident Gail McAlavey is helping her surgeon mark a special milestone at Sequoia Hospital. She's having her gall bladder removed with robotic surgery.

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"Being the 1,000 patient, I am very comfortable and confident that everything's going to come out the way it should," she said.

She won't be awake for the procedure to see how it works, but ABC7 News was invited into the operating room as Dr. Beemen Khalil, one of the Bay Area's pioneer robotic surgeons, sits at what resembles a gaming console with hand and foot controls that manipulate the robotic arms.

"It gives us more agility," Dr. Khalil explained. "It mimics exactly what I do with my own hands, and the 3D visualization helps with depth perception and gives us a wider field of view."

This is the fourth iteration of the da Vinci robotic system, made by Sunnyvale's Intuitive Surgical. Dr. Khalil says recovery is faster, and there is less risk. In the case of gall bladder surgery, there could be complications with the common bile duct shared by the liver.

"With robotics, what we improve upon is having immunofluorescence -- dye that we inject into the intravenous system, and that gives us the ability to highlight those bile ducts bright green at the time of surgery prior to any dissection," said Dr. Khalil. "This is state-of-the-art technology, but with all robotics and technology, it's going to continue to evolve, and what we see today will be revolutionized tomorrow."

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This robotic system cost Sequoia over $2 million with help from fundraising from the hospital's foundation. Dr. Khalil is part of a volunteer group, Operation Access, that provides access to the robotic system to uninsured patients.

While augmented reality and artificial intelligence are on the horizon, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Dieter Bruno isn't worried about the need for surgeons.

"There'll probably be more types of robotic systems. they'll be certain types of things that robots do well, but I think we're going to need surgeons because, at the end of the day, when you have to change the plan, you need someone who can think in real-time and do it safely," said Dr. Bruno.