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Sutter’s ROBODOC Inducted into the Smithsonian

Posted by on Jan 5, 2017 in Orthopedics, Our Services, Sutter Health Sacramento Sierra Region, Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento | 0 comments

SACRAMENTO — Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento made history in November 1992 with the surgery of the first person in the nation to be operated on by a robot. Now, 24 years later, Sutter Health is a leader in robotic surgeries, and that first robot, ROBODOC, has been enshrined in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Sutter orthopedic surgeon William Bargar, M.D., center, is shown with partner Hap Paul, right, and the, ROBODOC, left.

Sutter orthopedic surgeon William Bargar, M.D., center, is shown with partner Hap Paul, right, and the prototype of their invention, ROBODOC, left, in this 1990 photo.

ROBODOC is the brainchild of longtime Sutter orthopedic surgeon William Bargar, M.D., and a University of California, Davis veterinarian, Howard “Hap” Paul. With financial help from Sutter Health and IBM, their company started a trend toward more minimally invasive surgeries through the use of robotics that is becoming more commonplace.

ROBODOC was the first innovation that linked two then-burgeoning technologies: robotics and medical imaging. Performing total hip arthroplasty by hand is not always precise, and there is a possibility that the bone may splinter. ROBODOC, a 7-foot-tall articulated arm with a drill on the end, helps prevent these complications through its 3-D image-directed preoperative planning, allowing the computer-guided robot to accurately execute the surgeon’s plan. Better precision means quicker healing and hip replacements that are more stable and potentially last longer.

At the time, Sutter officials were optimistic about the future of robotics in health care and were excited to be on the forefront of new, groundbreaking technology.

“We’ve seen the use of robotics in other industries, so we see no reason to exclude health care from that technology,” then-SMCS assistant administrator Larry Maas told The Sacramento Bee a few days before the first surgery on Nov. 7, 1992. “We believe the technology will have major applications, not just for orthopedics.”

Dr. Bargar said at the time, “People from all over the world are calling me with phenomenal ideas. It’s very exciting to think this technology may have a lot bigger consequences than cementless hips.”

Today, Sutter Health is a leader in robotic surgeries for several different services, including gynecological, prostate, gallbladder and thoracic surgeries. In July 2014, Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento, became the first hospital in California to use the next-generation robotic surgery system called the da Vinci Xi, which provides 3-D, high-definition visualization and greater dexterity, precision and control for the surgeon as well as less pain and a quicker recovery for the patient.

Dr. In-Ki Mun, president and CEO of THINK Surgical, with the 1989 prototype of ROBODOC during the Smithsonian induction ceremony.

Dr. In-Ki Mun, president and CEO of THINK Surgical, with the 1989 prototype of ROBODOC during the Smithsonian induction ceremony.

The company that now produces ROBODOC, THINK Surgical Inc. of Fremont, found the robot prototype in a storage unit. THINK contacted the Smithsonian to see if there was interest in acquiring Dr. Bargar’s innovation.

“We are grateful to be able to include ROBODOC and related materials to the museum’s permanent collections,” said John Gray, the museum’s director. “This donation supports our curators’ goal to explore innovative medical robotics in the advancing field of precision technology and engineering and to document the early history of medial robotics.”

At the time of THINK’s discovery of the old prototype, Judy Chelnick, a curator in the museum’s medical and science division, wanted to collect a robotic medical device, but hadn’t chosen one. After seeing ROBODOC in person and researching its history, she decided this was the most important one to collect first – because it was the first.

“It’s historical,” she told Smithsonian magazine. “I see it as the evolution of surgery.”

Dr. Bargar, who attended the induction ceremony in Washington, D.C., last month, called the donation to the Smithsonian a “capper” to his long career.

“It’s a tremendous honor,” he said. “It’s probably the biggest accomplishment of my life.”

Posted by on Jan 5, 2017 in Orthopedics, Our Services, Sutter Health Sacramento Sierra Region, Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento | 0 comments