COLUMBUS, Neb. -- The newest member of the surgery team at Columbus Community Hospital doesn't need vacation time or dinner breaks.

CCH staff announced Friday that they had completed the first surgery using the hospital’s new da Vinci® Xi™ robotic system. The unique piece of technology allows for greater capabilities in the operating room while providing minimally invasive surgery for patients.

Dr. Jacob Oran, general surgeon at Columbus General Surgery, and four robotics trained nurses completed the first surgery — an inguinal hernia repair — on Aug. 27, 2021. That same day, surgeons and surgical staff completed three additional cases using the system.

“The first day could not have gone better,” said Sue Hrnicek, surgical services director at the hospital. “The patients, staff and doctors were excited. It was perfect.” 

The surgical services department currently has four dedicated nurses trained on the equipment to assist surgeons who specialize in general surgery, gynecology and urology. Eventually, the full surgical services team will be trained.

“Our four nurses volunteered to complete extensive training from the company that designed the system,” said Hrnicek. “We also performed site visits at other Nebraska hospitals who own a da Vinci® Xi™ system, to observe cases before the robot arrived.”

The sterile processing team was also trained on how to properly reprocess all instruments with the system, following the manufacturer’s instructions.

The da Vinci® Xi™ robotic system features 3D imaging of the surgical area with enhanced dexterity for greater precision by the surgeon.

Medical professionals have used da Vinci® systems for robotic-assisted surgeries for more than 20 years. This specific system will allow area surgeons to complete surgeries locally that were not offered before. 

“The robot will open up new avenues in surgery that we did not have before,” said Dr. Jacob Oran, physician at Columbus General Surgery. “It will keep the hospital up to date and competitive with the rest of the medical community so we can offer the same minimally-invasive procedures as any other hospital.”

Oran has previous experience with a da Vinci® robot — he has used it for many general surgery procedures, including hernia repairs and colon surgery. He said robot-assisted surgery will benefit patients.

“The main advantage is the ability to perform more complex surgeries through smaller incisions, which leads to quicker recovery,” he said.

The technology will be used for various procedures, including hernia repair, cholecystectomy, appendectomy, colon resection, hysterectomy, oophorectomy, tubal ligation, prostatectomy, nephrectomy and bladder surgery, among other things.

Another substantial benefit, according to Hrnicek, is the ability to complete urology procedures.

“We are excited to be able to offer those cases to our patients,” she said. “Before the robot arrived, we sent patients to other Nebraska hospitals to have those procedures done. Now, they can stay closer to home.” 

The da Vinci has three components: a surgeon console, a robot with four working arms and a vision cart.

The surgeon sits at the console to see a 3D magnified view of the operating field and uses special controls to move the instruments attached to the robot during surgery.

The robot is positioned next to the patient in the operating room and holds the camera and instruments, while the surgeon controls it from the console. A vision cart makes communication between the components possible and supports the 3D high-definition vision system.