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    Surgical Innovation: da Vinci Robotic-Assisted Surgery

    From the Surgeon: Nancy Panko, M.D.


    Robotic-assisted surgery using the da Vinci at Pullman Regional Hospital has “revolutionized surgery,” says Nancy Panko, M.D., surgeon with Pullman Surgical Associates.


    “When I talk to my patients, I tell them I use robotics and list the reasons why it’s my preference, as their surgeon.”


    The da Vinci robotic-assisted surgical system was new to Pullman Regional Hospital in 2012 and has been in high demand by surgeons and patients ever since. It’s used for surgery in the areas of general surgery, gynecology and urology.


    The Benefits of Robotics

    “The very fine movements of the robot in small spaces—like the upper and lower abdomen—is critical to having a successful surgery,” explains Dr. Panko.

    • The da Vinci’s wristed instrumentation at the end of the laparoscope allows for full range of motion, meaning surgical tools can be more easily maneuvered with minimal movements and less “port pain” or pain at the incision site.
    • Enhanced magnification provides superior visualization; surgeons can see blood vessels and tissue layers in great detail using the da Vinci system.
    • While a surgeon sits at a console, they are in complete control of the robotic arms and wristed instruments, which mimic the movements of the surgeon’s hands and fingers. The robot also eliminates any tremor of the human hand.


    The Patient Experience

    The benefits for patients are many:

    • Shorter recovery times
    • Shorter hospitalizations
    • Less blood loss
    • Less scarring
    • Less pain with da Vinci robotic assisted surgeries

    Area gynecologists are using the robot for the majority of hysterectomies at Pullman Regional Hospital and those patients go home the same day, which was unheard of 10 years ago.


    “It really does improve the experience for the patient, and that’s what I really appreciate about it,” says Dr. Panko.


    Nationwide, more surgeons are using the robot for surgical oncology, head and neck surgeries, cardiac, liver, gynecological and advanced hernia surgeries are all becoming more common for the da Vinci.


    Why Pullman Regional Hospital

    “One of the unique things that I love about Pullman is that most critical access hospitals don’t have a robotics program. That is something that really drew me here because this is an important part of my practice.”


    Dr. Panko explains further the benefits of having da Vinci technology in a rural hospital, “What it allows us to do is to keep our patients close to home and perform complex, minimally-invasive surgery that people would often have to travel for if they live in a smaller community.”


    Da Vinci surgeries are orchestrated by, “a well-oiled machine,” at Pullman Regional Hospital. Dr. Panko shares surgical technologists had received training to assist in da Vinci procedures prior to her joining the medical community of the Palouse in 2018.


    Operating room nurses have to be comfortable driving, docking and assisting the surgeon; Pullman Regional Hospital has a da Vinci-trained team ready to assist in minimally-invasive surgeries.


    “I’m essentially bringing all my patients to Pullman because we have this technology. It is a vital part of the surgical program we have here at Pullman, and I hope that we can continue to provide this for our patients.”


    Learn more about minimally invasive da Vinci surgery


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