Van Wert, OH,
17:15 PM

OhioHealth Van Wert Hospital Expanding Use of Minimally Invasive, Robotic-Assisted Surgeries

Area residents now have access to a growing number of leading-edge surgery services that allow them to heal quicker, experience less pain and stay close to home.

The robotic-assisted surgery program at OhioHealth Van Wert Hospital is expanding in use and breadth of services, giving patients more options for minimally invasive procedures. “I think it’s a game changer,” said Dr. Thomas Conte, the hospital’s chief of surgery. “I think people should feel blessed that we have this cutting-edge technology in a rural area.

“We’re creating the same standard of care at home as you would in a larger city,” said Dr. Craig Hanson, who also performs robotic surgeries at Van Wert.

Since December 2020, OhioHealth physicians have performed more than 800 operations using the da Vinci® Surgical System to treat a wide of array of conditions, including perforated stomach ulcers and colons, hernias and gallbladder disease. Other surgical services include bladder repairs as well as treatment of endometriosis and other urogynecological problems; additional growth has been seen in prostate surgery and the treatment of acid reflux disease. 

Robotic-assisted surgery is being used increasingly as an alternative to traditional open and other minimally invasive surgeries, such as laparoscopies. Robotic technology gives surgeons an enhanced and magnified view inside the patient’s body and provides them with a set of surgical “hands” that can move and maneuver more precisely than human ones.

However, a human being, not the robot, is 100 percent in control. “The robot doesn’t perform the surgery, it replicates my hand movements. It allows me to get in spaces I couldn’t otherwise access,” Dr. Conte said. “The robot is an additional tool we can use to help the patient.”

Dr. Hanson said the robotic system’s three-dimensional, panoramic imaging capability provides a much clearer view than laparoscopy. “It’s kind of like the difference between an old black-and-white TV and the latest generation HDTV, where you can see every blade of grass on the football field. It makes you a much more precise surgeon.”

Compared to traditional surgery, robotic procedures shorten healing time, allowing patients to get back to normal more quickly. “I’ve had patients tell me, ‘Oh my gosh, I didn’t feel this good,’ Dr. Hanson said. Less pain means reduced need for narcotics, and the risk of blood loss and infection also is lower.

“This reaps tremendous benefits for the patient,” said Dr. Conte. Robotic surgery isn’t always the better option, but when used appropriately, it can make a significant difference for both patients and their families and caregivers, he said.

At a recent meeting of the American College of Surgeons, about 40 percent of attendees responded yes when asked how many had 24/7 access to a robotic surgery system, Dr. Conte said.

“Little Van Wert is at least as good as half the places in the country, and better than the majority. For many things, small-town hospitals can do things at least as well or better than hospitals in large cities, and with more empathy. When you’re in a rural area, you want that personal touch,” said Dr. Conte.

The robotic surgery system at OhioHealth Van Wert Hospital was made possible by a gift from area philanthropists Bruce and Julie Kennedy.