First Robotic Surgery Performed In East Texas

by Julie Tam

An East Texas hospital is the first in our area to perform a groundbreaking surgery. A Henderson man underwent heart surgery with the use of robots.

It's hard to imagine that 60-year-old Jerry Wade underwent triple bypass heart surgery just over a week ago.

"It's just been amazing," he said. "Here it is, eight days later, and I'm up and around and just a little tired, but [have] very little pain."

Before last Monday, Jerry would have still been recovering for several more weeks. But that was before the world's most advanced robotic surgery was made possible in East Texas. Trinity Mother Frances in Tyler is the first hospital in the area to use the minimally-invasive da Vinci surgical system.

Dr. William Turner is the surgeon who operated on Jerry by moving robotic arms to mimic what the human hand would normally do. Da Vinci is the only FDA-approved technology in the U.S. that allows the surgeon this type of intuitive control and fine tissue manipulation.

"The most obvious benefit is that you're able to get the maneuverability of the human hand into a very small cavity," Dr. Turner said.

Heart surgeons used to have to open up the entire chest cavity by cutting through the breast bone and ribs. Now, robotic surgery allows for less blood loss, less scarring, and less risk of infection.

"There's a small incision on the left breast," Wade said. "And then there's a small cut above and below."

Surgeons say da Vinci is more precise than the human hand alone. But it needs human control because the robot cannot make decisions. Doctors predict robotic surgery will soon become the norm for all surgeries.