Berkshire Medical Staff incorporates robots into surgical procedures


PITTSFIELD -- After undergoing a gallbladder removal surgery, Karla Delair expected to experience stiffness, discomfort and a temporary change to her everyday lifestyle -- the typical hangover effects of a surgery.

However, the 56-year-old registered nurse from Lee said she experienced none of that after undergoing a procedure performed by robotics-assisted mechanical instruments at Berkshire Medical Center.

"It was just so smooth," said Delair, who had the procedure performed in April at BMC out of concern that a condition with her gallbladder -- located underneath the liver -- might lead to cancer.

"It was like I never had surgery -- that's how easy it was," Delair said.

Hospital officials said she is the first robotic-assisted, single-incision gallbladder patient in Mass achusetts. The minimally invasive surgery allows a patient to recover faster.

Dr. Andrew Lederman performed the surgery without barely laying a hand on Delair.

The operation was done through an inch-long incision through Delair's belly button. Lederman used the da Vinci Surgical System, an expensive robotics platform capable of sending a camera and an array of robotics tools through the incision to perform the operation and remove the gallbladder through the naval.

"I control the robot and the robot mimics my procedure," Lederman said.

There's was a significant cost attached to the purchase of the robotics platform, which was purchased for about $1 million two years ago after about a year of careful consideration, said BMC spokesman Michael Leary.

"Every patient would like the best, most efficient services and procedure to get back to normal life as quickly process," Leary said.

In April 2011, Lederman said he traveled to Florida to train on using the equipment. A 3D high-definition camera is used to examine the body, and he said human dexterity is improved using the robotic equipment.

However, Lederman said that using one's hands "gives you a lot of information to handle tissue and how hard you're pulling on something," Lederman said.

"The ability to feel the tissue has some advantages," said Lederman, who said cancerous tissue feels differently than normal tissue.

Delair said she had no hesitation about undergoing a procedure.

"It sounded fine and whatever was the easiest way is fine with me," said Delair.

There have also been 20 other patients who have chosen to have their gallbladder removed since Delair, Led erman said.

Lederman said that doctors might not believe Delair had surgery, if she told them, because most doctors aren't accustomed to seeing surgeries performed without leaving scars.

To reach John Sakata:,
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