Northside Hospital prides itself on having a staff who care about bedside manner, yet many of their surgeries are performed nearly eight feet away from the patient. It may seem contradictory at first, but this distance makes all the difference.
Northside performs a majority of their surgeries robotically. On the gynecologic oncology floor of the cancer institute, it means even more cases of cervical, ovarian and uterine cancers can be treated at Northside than at any other hospital in Georgia.
Robotic surgeries are the next evolution of laparoscopy, or minimally invasive surgeries, which has added in the use of robotic arms for surgical instruments. The doctor remains in control, but with robotic technology is even more in control than ever before.
Dr. Gerald Feuer, a gynecological oncologist, recently performed his 4,000 robotic surgery at Northside Hospital, the second gynecological surgeon in the world to reach that milestone. With more than 30 years of experience, Feuer has established himself as a leading robotic surgeon.
“The robot can not only turn the whole arm, but it can actually bend at the wrist and fingers. It really duplicates the human hand, and it makes me way more adept than I would be laparoscopically,” Feuer said.
The series of controls, buttons and even foot pedals require serious skill, but bring confidence to the surgeon. “Even though there are a lot of pieces to the puzzle, you can move fast,” Feuer said. “It’s like a very complex video game.”
The doctor begins his surgeries laparoscopically, making small incisions, before moving the robot into place. Called da Vinci, cameras on the robotic arm produce 3D images in high definition resolution, offering more detail and contours than open surgery.
Any time Feuer spends away from the patient during surgery is made up in office visits and consultations, spending nearly an hour outlining the experience and educating patients. “I explain what I’ve done, not to brag, but to make them confident with what I’ve done in the past. A lot of education goes in as well, which helps gives the patients confidence. The more they understand what they are going through, the more they can be confident with the situation,” Feuer said.
Feuer said that many procedures, such as a hysterectomies, have vastly improved using robotic technology with a bonus of less bleeding and recovery time.
Robotic surgeries have been performed for over 20 years, but Feuer was one of the first to introduce the procedures to gynecological care nearly a dozen years ago. Gynecological oncologists traveled to Atlanta to learn Feuer’s techniques and continue to study his training videos. Today, Feuer collaborates with a team of robotic surgeons at Northside to refine robotic procedures, with the hopes to initiate more outpatient surgeries in the near future.
As technology continues to advance, Feuer knows the art of surgery will never change. “Surgery will always remain artistic,” he said. “I wish I could paint, but my art is in the OR.”