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MEDICINE: Surgeons challenge opinion on robotics

Letter by John P. Lenihan Jr., M.D., Normandy Park on March 18, 2013 at 11:45 am with No Comments »
March 18, 2013 1:03 pm

Re: “Doctors told robot hysterectomy not best” (TNT, 3-17).

I take exception to the opinions expressed by the president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, an organization whose purported goals is to advance health care for women.

His opinion that we should turn back the clock and only offer traditional methods of surgery would result in most women having major, invasive surgical procedures similar to what happened prior to the era of robotics.

Despite decades of training and innovation with vaginal and laparoscopic approaches to hysterectomy, more than 66 percent of women nationally are still told today by their doctors that they aren’t candidates for these minimal approaches and should instead have a traditional open procedure with its longer recovery and increased pain and complications.

Since implementing a robotic surgery program at MultiCare hospitals in 2005, we have decreased our traditional open hysterectomy rate to less than 10 percent at all our hospitals. Progress has always been more expensive, but with our experience,  costs are now in line with less expensive routes of surgery.

A complete response to this shortsighted opinion by a national group of the most experienced robotic surgeons can be seen at: http://tinyurl.com/ctr7cgx.

If the leaders of our OB-GYN community still want rotary dial phones because they are less expensive than smart phones, I support their choice. But I wouldn’t recommend that for myself, my family or my patients.

(Lenihan is medical director for robotics and minimally invasive surgery for MultiCare Health Systems, Tacoma.)

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