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Surgical systems

Surgical robot unveiled at Toronto East General

TORONTO – Hockey legend Wayne Gretzky (pictured) made a quick appearance at Toronto East General Hospital, as part of the announcement of the acquisition of a da Vinci surgical robotic system. Toronto East General says it is the first community hospital in Canada to acquire a da Vinci robot, which it will use to treat patients with prostate cancer.

“We’re a leading hospital that constantly leads the pack in innovation ... As a hospital, we always try to anticipate where the next technology is going to be,” said Rob Devitt, TEGH president and CEO.

He spoke at the hospital earlier this month to raise awareness about the cutting-edge technology and the goal to create a regional training centre. The cost of the equipment is $5 million, of which the hospital foundation has already raised $4 million.

After a short session at the hospital, where he attended a demonstration of the da Vinci robot and tried using the controls, Gretzky went on to a private fund-raising event.

The new surgical robot will be used in partnership with Sunnybrook Hospital; the surgeons at TEGH and Sunnybrook’s Odette Cancer Centre will share the device, which will be located at TEGH.

The da Vinci Surgical System is becoming a preferred treatment for the removal of prostate cancer following early diagnosis. It allows surgeons to develop techniques that are less invasive than traditional surgery, allows for faster recovery and are less painful. The console controls four surgical ports and doctors are able to see the images in 3D and high definition.

“This is going to make a huge difference in men’s health,” said Devitt.

At the event, the hospital recruited a great Canadian to demonstrate a robot simulator. Wayne Gretzky donned a white hospital jacket and took a turn at the controls, but instead of performing surgery he put jacks into colour coded containers. The left-handed shooter was a little shaky with the right control, but he adeptly transferred the jack into the container with his left.

“In the same way that Wayne Gretzky changed the way we thought about hockey players...there’s also been a revolution in surgery,” said Dr. Rajiv Singal, the head of urology who pushed for the program.

TEGH will be the third hospital in Toronto to have the robot – though it will be the first community hospital.

“That’s something that I’m quite proud of, it’s something that we should all be proud of,” said Singal. The Regional Teaching Centre, in partnership with the University of Toronto, will help train the next generation of surgeons.

The partnership with Sunnybrook not only includes the sharing of the da Vinci robot, but it also involves both hospitals sharing their donations to purchase it, which Devitt said is the direction the hospital system needs to move.

“It’s a unique opportunity for us to take a leadership role in how we implement
cutting-edge technology,” said Singal.

Posted November 3, 2011