Robotic surgical assistant

Surgery center at St. Elizabeth in Youngstown has technical advantage

By William K. Alcorn


Humility of Mary Health Partners spent $2.65 million to renovate its St. Elizabeth Robotic Surgery Center and purchase the next-generation da Vinci Si robot-assisted surgery system for the center.

The investment, $2.5 million of which is for the new da Vinci, will also enable HMHP to introduce robot-assisted surgery to its St. Joseph Health Health Center in Warren, officials said.

Humility of Mary Health Partners, which introduced robotic surgery to the Mahoning and Shenango valleys in 2007, unveiled its new equipment and newly renovated facility last week.

The newly refined da Vinci Si Surgical System is manufactured by California-based Intuitive Surgical Inc.

Nearly 900 robot-assisted surgeries have been performed since 2007 at St. Elizabeth, when the original da Vinci robot was introduced and demonstrated, said Dr. Daniel Ricchiuti, director of robotic surgery.

The St. Elizabeth Robotic Surgery Center, located on the top floor of St. Elizabeth Health Center on Belmont Avenue, has larger, private rooms for patients recovering from robot-assisted surgery and is a designated quiet zone. The cost of renovation was $125,000.

When HMHP brought da Vinci robot-assisted surgery to the area, it was primarily used to perform urological procedures, primarily prostatectomies.

Since then, the robotic surgery program has expanded to include a variety of urological, gynecological, general and thoracic procedures, such as hernia, hysterectomy, kidney repair, and lymph node dissection, hospital officials said.

The advantages of robot-assisted surgery are that it is a minimally invasive option compared to traditional “open” surgery, which results in less blood loss, less pain, less scarring and quicker recovery, Dr. Ricchiuti said.

“Our goal is to create a better experience for our patients,” he added.

Two men who were diagnosed with prostate cancer and had robot-assisted prostatectomies at St. Elizabeth testified to the relative ease of their surgeries and recovery.

Gerald Brown of New Castle, Pa., was the first to have a robot-assisted prostatectomy at St. Elizabeth in 2007 at 61. Now 66, he retired from St. Elizabeth earlier this year after 38 years in the maintenance department.

He said the surgery consisted of four small incisions and he was back to work in six weeks. “I really had no pain after the surgery,” he said.

“It was an amazing experience,” said Liberty Township Fire Chief Michael Durkin, 53.

He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in January 2010 and his robot-assisted surgery was in March 2010.

Durkin said he was off work three or four weeks, on limited duty for about three months then back to full duty.

“All my functions are good, and I’m alive and feel good,” Durkin said.

The robot-assisted surgery team is more than a surgeon and a robot.

During the surgery center open house, Jerrid Lujan, nurse coordinator for the center, presented pins to a group of nurses that are emblematic of their specialized training in robot-assisted surgery and caring for patients as they recover.

HMHP, which includes St. Elizabeth Health Center, St. Joseph Health Center in Warren, St. Elizabeth Boardman Health Center, is the only health-care system in the six-county region — Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties in Ohio, and Mercer, Lawrence and Beaver counties in Pennsylvania — that offers robot-assisted surgery, officials said.

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