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Newark Beth Israel Medical Center Site of New Robotic Surgery Training Center
Story Number is : 092206111
Hospital Newspaper

The robotic surgery team of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center.
Three proctors at the Robotic Training Institute of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. Pictured (from left) Pediatric Urologic Surgeon Jeffrey Stock, Urologist Dominic Savatta and Gynecologist Michael Pitter.
Patients and Doctors Come from all Over the World to Receive and Learn State of the Art Treatment in Variety of Specialties

Robotic Training Center Opens
Newark Beth Israel Medical Center recently hosted the grand opening of its new Robotic Training Center, a state-of-the-art facility where surgeons from around the world are undergoing training in advanced robotic-assisted surgical techniques using the da Vinci® S™ Surgical System. New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services Commissioner Dr. Fred Jacobs and Newark Mayor Cory Booker attended the grand opening on Aug. 15th. With establishment of the new Center, the medical center is now the only facility in the Eastern United States and one of only three in the country to offer such comprehensive training on the da Vinci ‘S’ Robot.

The opening of Newark Beth Israel’s training center demonstrates the depth of its robotic surgery program, and the medical community’s growing interest in robotic-assisted surgery. ‘The success of the da Vinci System is a clear example of how technology is advancing improved patient care,’ said Dennis Bordan, MD, Chairman of Surgery at Newark Beth Israel. ‘It is truly exciting for our institution to be at the forefront of such an important advance in minimally invasive surgery. We look forward to sharing our expertise.’

Named as one of the 2005 Solucient 100 Top Hospitals Performance Improvement
Leaders, Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, an affiliate of the Saint Barnabas Health Care System, is a 673-bed tertiary care teaching hospital recognized for its expertise in robotic surgery. Physicians at Newark Beth Israel currently perform robotic surgery in more specialties than any other facility in the nation, including adult cardiac, adult urology, pediatric urology, gynecology, gynecologic oncology and general surgery.

‘Four years ago we started using the da Vinci robot exclusively for cardiac cases. Since that time, we’ve expanded to seven specialties, with plans to add three more by the end of the year,’ said Paul A. Mertz, Executive Director of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. ‘The benefits are clear for everyone: patients who undergo robotic-assisted surgery experience less bleeding, pain, and scarring, as well as reduced recovery times.’ When the da Vinci® S™ Surgical System was subsequently approved for additional uses by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Newark Beth Israel surgeons in various specialties expressed interest in learning how to use it, and were sent for training. ‘As a result of our commitment to develop this program, robotic surgery volume at Newark Beth Israel has increased dramatically. We now have three da Vinci surgical systems to respond to the demand,’ Mr. Mertz said.

The da Vinci® S™ Surgical System gives surgeons the control, range of motion and 3-D visualization that is characteristic of open surgery. Robotic-assisted surgery incorporates techniques that allow the surgeon to operate through several small incisions about the size of a dime. In the operating room, the surgeon sits at the console with his hands on the master controls and his eyes on a 3-D image of the surgical field. From the patient-side cart, four robotic arms and one endoscope arm precisely translate the surgeon’s movements through small incisions in the patient.

The da Vinci Robot has been called ‘a miracle worker in disguise.’ Almost as tall as a person, the Robot has four arms, three of which hold surgical tools; the fourth arm holds a super-high resolution 3D camera system with high powered magnification systems. The system is a significant improvement over laparoscopic techniques which limit the surgeon’s range of motion; with the Robot, on the other hand, the arms mirror the surgeon’s every move, providing full range of motion and even filtering out tremors.

Robotic Specialties at The Beth
The evolution of surgical robotics since its introduction to the medical field a few years ago has been nothing short of amazing. The Beth has been host to many ground breaking cases for individual patients, as well as to innovations in the industry.

In May of 2006, Dr. Craig Saunders, Chairman of Cardiothoracic Surgery, utilized the da Vinci surgical system for mitral valve repair. One benefit to robotic surgery in the field of cardiology is the eradication of the need for breast bone cracking and rib spreading. This patient also did not need to take blood thinner medication for the rest of her life, as most post-mitral valve surgical patients are required, nor did she have to
receive any kind of device or implant; the precision of the robotic arms and the skill of her doctor combined to allow her heart to be repaired inside her chest. Surgeons at Newark Beth Israel expect to continue this life-saving work in cardiology with such procedures as ‘beating heart’ coronary artery bypass graft surgery, and expand the use of robotics to lungs as well.

Resulting in less nerve damage and a better quality of life post-surgery, robotic surgery is becoming the treatment of choice for men undergoing prostatectomy, and Newark Beth Israel’s reputation for prowess in this field is drawing patients from across the country.

One patient, living in California and diagnosed with prostate cancer, came all the way to Newark for treatment. Facing what he called ‘a life and death decision’, this patient was not satisfied with what he was hearing from his own doctor and was frustrated by his insurance provider’s refusal to cover the treatment he preferred. He took it upon himself to find a doctor who would remove his prostate via a less invasive form of surgery that uses robotics.

In July ‘06, the patient traveled to the East Coast from his home in the San Joachim Valley of Northern California in order to receive the robotic prostatectomy, performed by Domenico Savatta., MD, Chief of Minimally Invasive and Robotic Adult Urologic Surgery at The Beth.

This patient believed so strongly that robotic prostate removal is the right course of action that he footed the bill for the surgery himself, explaining ‘that you have to persevere to get the best medical treatment possible.’

Urological procedures performed in this method have the added advantages of reduced nerve damage, lower rates of erectile dysfunction and swifter recovery.

In this patient’s case, the surgery was a resounding success: Dr. Savatta reports that the patient has had a swift recovery of sexual function within 16 days of the operation, and that his cancer appears to have been fully arrested.

In addition to its already recognized successes in cases of cardiac disease and prostate cancer, surgical robotics is being successfully applied to other specialties including gynecology and gynecologic oncology, where it is helping women preserve their fertility.

Newark Beth Israel is becoming the hospital of choice for many women seeking to reverse the effects of tubal ligation. This fertility option is less costly and less invasive than traditional methods, with measured success.

Suresh Thani, MD, gynecologist at Newark Beth Israel, recently performed a tubal ligation reversal and the patient is now pregnant with twins.

Surgeons at The Beth have also achieved success with robotic surgery in the treatment of fibroid tumors and other gynecological cancers; patients who once faced radical hysterectomies may now be eligible for robotic procedures which can preserve fertility. One patient of Michael Pitter, MD, obstetrician-gynecologist at Newark Beth Israel, who underwent robotic surgery for fibroid tumors is now in her fourth month of pregnancy.

Often with the presentation of fibroid tumors, a woman in her childbearing years will be offered a myomectomy, which keeps the uterus intact, as an alternative to a hysterectomy. In traditional surgery, a myomectomy is often performed through a large abdominal incision. With robotic surgery, the surgeon is able to operate through several small incisions about the size of a dime. The benefits of robotics over traditional surgical
approaches include less pain and risk of wound infection; less scarring; faster recovery and quicker return to normal activities. A surgeon performing a robotic-assisted laparoscopic myomectomy is able to perform the same complex and delicate procedures as the traditional approach without compromising the outcome or patient safety.

Pediatric urology is another area of expertise for the medical center. Children's Hospital of New Jersey at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center was the site for the first use of the robot on a pediatric patient in the state of New Jersey. Jeffrey Stock, MD, pediatric urologist, utilized the da Vinci Surgical System to perform pyeloplasty, a procedure to repair a blockage in the kidney.

The patient, a 10-year-old girl, suffered from a congenital abnormality that causes the ureter to narrow at the point where it connects with the kidney. Traditional surgery to repair this condition includes creating a 4-5" incision below the patient's 12th rib and dividing muscles to reach the affected area, all of which makes for a painful experience for the patient, according to Dr. Stock.

"The robot allows the surgeon to do the fine work of eliminating the segment of the ureter that's narrow and sewing the ends back, all through two small ports. The entire procedure is less invasive and less painful than traditional surgery," he said.

Since that first case, Dr. Stock has performed numerous pyeloplasties with the da Vinci robot on other pediatric patients. One mother described her 12-year-old son’s surgery in glowing terms: ‘Dr. Stock said he wanted to correct the problem through a new type of procedure so [my son] could recover faster. I was a little nervous at first because I wasn’t familiar with the da Vinci robot,’ she said. ‘But then I saw the robotic equipment in
the operating room, and the nurses explained to us how the surgeon sees everything in 3-D. The staff was warm and knowledgeable about what needed to be done. I walked out of the OR feeling very comfortable and relieved.’

Today, the patient is back to his studies as a grade school student, spending time with his three siblings, and enjoying his favorite activities ‘If he had undergone traditional surgery, his pain would have been more intense and his recuperation longer. I’m so happy that we were offered the option of robotic surgery,’ said his mother.

The Future
The application of robotics at Newark Beth Israel continues to expand; Dr. Borden and Adam Kopelan, MD, general surgeon, plan to use the technique to treat disorders of the upper aerodigestive tract such as chronic reflux disease or gastroesophrageal reflux (GERD); obesity through gastric bypass surgery; for abdominal aortic artery surgery; and for adrenalectomies.

Sessions at the Newark Beth Israel Medical Center Robotic Training Center are attracting doctors from the finest hospitals and universities from all over the world who seek expert instruction in these ground breaking techniques. The success of the Training Center reflects the advancement of Newark Beth Israel’s robotic surgery program. In fact, three of The Beth’s surgeons are proctors in the Training Center: Dr. Jeffrey Stock, Dr. Michael Pitter and Dr. Dominic Savatta, with additional surgeons coming on board..

To learn more about the Robotic Surgery Program and the Robotic Training Center at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, contact Tara Morrissey, Robotic Surgery Training Center Coordinator, at (973) 926-8242. For more information about robotic surgery performed at Newark Beth Israel, visit

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