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Wave of the Future

Robotic surgery opens new frontier for better precision and faster recovery

When performing a complicated gynecologic surgery with robotic hands, Michelle Luthringshausen, MD, sees more than just an image on a 3-D high-definition television screen that has been magnified 10 times.

She sees the future.

At Northwest Community Hospital, the future is now. Intuitive Surgical, the makers of the da Vinci Si™ robotic surgical system, has named NCH, along with Dr. Luthringshausen, a robotic surgery Epicenter—the first of its kind in the tri-state area of Illinois, Wisconsin and Indiana.

In this Q&A, Dr. Luthringshausen, the medical director of the Robotic Gynecologic Surgery Institute at NCH, explains what this designation means and how patients can benefit from it.

A Healthier YOU: What does the Epicenter designation mean?

Dr. Luthringshausen: Basically, an Epicenter is an example center. We show other surgeons how to perform robotic surgery safely and efficiently and show surgical teams how to become efficient, safe robotic centers.

AHY: What exactly is robotic surgery?

Dr. L.: Some patients visualize a robot that is programmed to do tasks on its own, like a robotic maid they've seen in the movies. That's not the case. Controlled by me from a console, the tips of robotic instruments do anything I do with my hands, except they eliminate tremor and offer better range of motion. Robotics help surgeons do what they do best even better.

AHY: What are its gynecologic uses?

Dr. L.: We can perform hysterectomies, remove uterine fibroids and treat complex endometriosis.

AHY: Can't you do this with traditional laparoscopic surgery?

Dr. L.: Not always. With 10 times magnification, I can see what I couldn't see before. With endometriosis, I can see and remove more lesions. I can remove uterine fibroids that were just too deep into the wall of the uterus to remove before. With robotics I can even perform a complex hysterectomy, which is excellent news for patients who traditionally would have had an open incision.

AHY: What else does robotic surgery offer patients?

Dr. L.: My patients typically go home the same day of surgery and they heal faster with much less postoperative pain.

AHY: You are only the fourth female Epicenter surgeon in the nation. What does this say about you?

Dr. L.: It is an honor. I do think it is interesting because 75 percent of obstetricians/gynecologists are women, but in the world of gynecologic surgery, there are definitely more male surgeons than females.

AHY: What does this advanced technology say about NCH?

Dr. L.: NCH has performed robotic surgery for five years. We upgraded to the da Vinci Si™ Surgical System—the most advanced robotic technology in the world—in January. In fact, surgeons at NCH are also using robotic technology for urologic procedures and colon surgery. This investment in technology is a great example of NCH's commitment to offering the best treatment options for our patients.

Michelle Luthringshausen, MD

Michelle Luthringshausen, MD

Medical Director of the Robotic Gynecologic Surgery Institute at NCH; Assistant Professor of Obstetrics-Gynecology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine

  • Board Certified: Obstetrics-Gynecology
  • Medical School: Northwestern University
  • Internship and Residency: McGaw Medical Center, Northwestern University

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Last Updated 04/10/2009