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Robotics Expo Showcases Spinal Surgery Machine

West Hills Hospital and Medical Center played host on Oct. 15 to an expo for chamber members, students and visiting medical staff to show off the Da Vinci XI and Mazor X, which assist with abdominal and spine surgeries, respectively. With the addition of precision machinery like Mazor and Da Vinci, hospital Chief Executive Mark Miller hopes to make West Hills a hub for surgical technology and a safe haven for patients needing complex surgery done. “Having that technology here, in the Valley, people can stay close to home. People have felt that they have to go over the hill,” explained Miller. “They should be able to have a facility close by with the technology capabilities in-house so people can stay close to home.” The sentiment echoes Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center’s $542 million campus endeavor with Cedars Sinai, which is also trying to establish itself as a one-stop-shop for patients. Visitors at the expo were encouraged to take the machines for a spin with an impromptu round of “Operation” and watch Dr. David Schreier stitch Woody’s arm back on in a video, referencing the second installment of Disney’s “Toy Story” franchise, to showcase how precise the machine can be. “I was already doing minimum invasive surgery with small incisions in a fiberoptic scope, but this came along, and this has better instruments and better 3D vision with the camera, so you can see better-defined tissue and see what’s going on inside,” said Schreier. The $2.5 million Da Vinci machine, manufactured by Sunnyvale-based Intuitive Surgical, can help surgeons with any cases in the abdominal department, including gall bladder surgery, emergency cases involving bleeding ulcers, hysterectomies, prostate and kidney surgery. “It’s very hard to get deep in the pelvis, so that’s where people saw the biggest benefit – urology, prostate,” said Jeremy Weber with Intuitive. With the help of a very small 3D camera and tiny surgical instruments placed inside with tiny incisions, the surgeon is able to control the arms through a console. A monitor closely watched by the surgeon, nurse and assistant allows for a 360-degree view of the surgery site. “Surgeries can sometimes take two to three hours, and if you’re not on your feet … it cuts down on fatigue level of the surgeon,” explained Schreier. The Da Vinci cuts down on recovery time too, according to Schreier: “The incisions from the location, there’s less torque on it, and because I can do a better operation and put things together better, people heal quicker. They’re back to returning to their normal activities.” The spine surgery machine, Mazor X, was developed by Medtronic and is the first and only one of its kind in Los Angeles County, according to Dr. Amir Vokshoor and West Hills’ chief executive. Vokshoor, a neurosurgeon with his practice spanning from West LA to the Valley, uses Mazor X for his most complex cases; he has done roughly 20 to 30 spine surgeries with the machine since the hospital purchased it a year ago. “It tells you exactly where instrumentation should go. Before that, there was up to 27 percent error in prior years (based on studies), in just placing the pedicle screws, based on X-rays,” explained Vokshoor. “With this, it’s supposed to be under 10 percent. In our hands it’s been under 3 percent.” The machine attaches to the patient’s hip bone and is fed a pre-operative CAT scan, which is compared with an X-ray taken when the patient gets to the operating room, helping with precise placement of the surgeon’s instruments. “When it sees bone it says, ‘OK, I know where I am.’ It’s that smart,” added Vokshoor. “A surgeon is supposed to know where the anatomy is at all times, and one of the hardest things to know is the nuances of tiny angles. The spine is 66 joints. Every single vertebra is different.” Miller looks to purchase add-ons to the Mazor X in early 2020, such as navigational equipment, mapping out surgery and the capability to do portions of the surgery itself.

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