Surgeons at Womack Army Medical Center are now able to call upon the use of a robot’s steady hands to aid them with delicate procedures.

Named the da Vinci Surgical System, the robotic arms replace the surgeons’ hands during an operation. With the robot not able to perform any tasks on its own, the entire procedure is still performed by the surgeon, who operates the robot with his hands and his feet remotely.

Maj. (Dr.) Patrick McDonough, chief of Urology Services at WAMC and one of two surgeons using the system, said: “This is a relatively new technology initially intended for challenging surgeries in small places. It’s wristed, meaning that the arms have a full range of motion, and able to make precise, steady movements. It also allows you to see everything better while you’re operating.”

During the procedure, the surgeon makes the small incisions for the surgical instruments and cameras, before the robotic hands and instruments are inserted. The surgeon then moves away to carry out the operation at the console.

Whilst the robot is already assisting with urology and gynecology surgeries, it is hoped that additional surgeons in training will be able to perform general surgeries as well. McDonough points to studies that have shown the benefits of using robot-assisted surgery, with patients experiencing less pain and blood loss following the operation, and shorter stays in hospital.

Located within Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Womack Army Medical Center is a state-of-the-art medical complex, and provides healthcare to more than 199,000 people. It is hoped that the da Vinci Surgical System can provide better medical facilities for those in need, as well as education to those in training in the medical profession, with a 3d, high definition view available on a second screen.

Although the da Vinci Surgical System is new to WAMC, there are at least 45 of the £2 million robots in England and Wales, which are primarily used to treat prostate cancer. However, it has also been used for kidney transplants and heart surgery.