Trinity Health introduced the da Vinci Si HD Surgical System to the region last July, and was the first hospital in the region to begin a robotic surgery program. Last week, Trinity Health marked its 100th procedure using the system.
"Everything we've done has been done at an incredibly rapid rate. When you hit 100 cases this quickly, and the patients are doing well, it means you're doing something right," Ryan Hedgepeth, urologist and director of advanced robotic surgery at Trinity Health, said.
"Trinity Health began reinventing the (care) system less than two years ago, and we began the robotic surgery program less than eight months ago," he said. "We're progressing faster than most regional cities progress."
Katina Tengesdal/MDN - - Dr. Ryan Hedgepeth, urologist and director of advanced robotic surgery at Trinity Health, spoke about Trinity’s robotic surgery program and a recent milestone the program reached.
Hedgepeth has performed the first of almost every type of robotic urology surgery in the state's history, including the first prostate removal, first partial kidney removal, first adrenal gland removal and first kidney and ureter removal. He is also performing advanced surgery such as robotic radical cystectomy, or bladder removal which is done for bladder cancer, that is only performed at a small number of centers around the world.
In addition to Hedgepeth's surgeries, another Trinity Health surgeon has been performed surgeries using the technology as well. Dr. David Billings, obstetrician and gynecologist, has performed gynecological surgeries.
The benefits for patients undergoing robotic surgery include shorter recovery times, minimal scarring, less pain, less blood loss and increased patient safety.
"Most patients are in and out of the hospital within 24 to 48 hours, when previously they would have stayed in the hospital over a week," Hedgepeth said. "Since it's minimally invasive, most patients recover very quickly."
The advanced robotic surgery program is addressing a need in the Minot and northwest North Dakota area.
"This was an under-served area for advanced surgical care," Hedgepeth said. "We identified the needs we could meet and acquired the technology to meet those needs."
The program's rapid success is due in part to Hedgepeth's experience. Hedgepeth had performed a few hundred cases of robotic surgery before arriving at Trinity, and the program he worked with at the Cleveland Clinic was one of the early adapters of robotic surgery. Hedgepeth was able to offer experience to help get the program started.
In addition, other Trinity staff members have been supportive as well.
"One of the reasons we've been so successful is we've had a lot of support from the surgical staff, and administrative support for the technology as well," Hedgepeth said. "To have the administration and the clinical staff on the same page means you'll have success."
Looking in to the future, more surgeons capable of using robotic surgery technology will join the program at Trinity.
In the coming months, Trinity staff hopes the robotic surgery program will expand into general surgery as well as cardiac and thoracic surgery. Dr. Christopher Phillips, cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon, recently began at Trinity Health and will be working with robotic surgery in his specialty area.
"By far, we have the most experienced program in the state," Hedgepeth said. "We want to be looked at as the advanced surgery leader of North Dakota."
"We're not pushing the limits of what we're capable of," he said. "We're just pushing the limits of what's been done in the state."