Minimally-Invasive Robotic-Assisted Surgery Impresses President Bush
as well as Erlanger patients
Chattanooga, Tenn. - In early 2006, when Dr. Donald Chamberlain appeared
before the Erlanger Board of Trustees to help make the case for the purchase of
the latest generation of the da Vinci robotic surgical system, he probably did
not dream he would be showing off the system to the President of the United
But flash forward a year to February 21, 2007, and President George W. Bush
was in Chattanooga visiting the Erlanger Baroness Campus and receiving a
hands-on demonstration of the robotic surgical system from Dr.
Dr. Chamberlain, a gynecologic oncologist who practices with Chattanooga GYN
Oncology, reported that the president had a fine touch with the device’s
controls. But the President joked in an appearance later that morning at the
Chattanooga Convention and Trade Center that “… everyone should be happy to
hear…there wasn’t anybody at the other end of the machine.”
All joking aside, Dr. Chamberlain impressed the President with some of the
benefits to the patient when the robotic system is used for surgeries – smaller
incisions, less blood loss, less risk of infection and shorter recovery times.
These benefits were well known to Dr. Chamberlain when he supported the
purchase of the da Vinci system for Erlanger. At that time, he had already
performed more than 125 minimally-invasive robotic-assisted surgeries.
In an interview published soon after the da Vinci was introduced at Erlanger,
Dr. Chamberlain said he had analyzed the results of endometrial cancer staging
performed with the da Vinci and found that blood loss, which averages 200
milliliters in open and laparoscopic surgery, drops to 25 milliliters in da
Vinci procedures. Hospitalization, averaging 3 to 5 days with open surgery and
1.5 days with laparoscopic, is under 12 hours. Recovery, typically six weeks for
open surgery and two weeks for laparoscopy, averages 10 days.
Dr. Chamberlain said his patients are enthused, particularly by their faster
return to normal activities. “They tell me that people have to remind them
they’ve just had major surgery,” he said, adding, “People tell them to slow
down, take it easy. But they don’t feel like it. They feel great.”
Erlanger became just the sixth hospital in the nation to purchase the da
Vinci “S” Surgical System, the latest method of robot-assisted surgery. Clinical
studies suggest the robotic system helps surgeons produce better outcomes than
conventional technologies, such as lower incidences of impotence and
incontinence that can follow prostate surgeries.
While Dr. Chamberlain admits showing off the da Vinci robot to President Bush
was a thrill, he notes that the benefits he sees for patients on a regular basis
are the most gratifying.