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Of Computers, Robots, and Modern Medicine

June 1, 2015
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Recent robotic surgery reinforces my respect for modern healthcare technology

Today, I am 2.5 weeks post robotic surgery and still marveling in what modern medicine can do!  Back in January I had an incidental finding of a chest mass.  The plan was to follow it for any changes.  A follow on scan in March showed no change in size, so the plan was to continue to follow it.

That’s when being the connected and inquisitive patient in me got involved.  Through the gracious review by an external radiologist, the conclusion was that an MRI might be more definitive in terms of the mass composition, which might greatly impact the course of action.  My suggestion of such a course resulted in a quick referral to a thoracic surgeon, who of course concluded that it needed to come out!

Because of the location (upper mediastinum), there were only two ways to get at it: (1) crack the sternum; or (2) robotic surgery.  The surgeon happened to be experienced with robotic surgery, so that was the course taken.  Following successful surgery, the pathology fortunately came back as a benign thymic cyst. 

My expectation was that because it was robotic, the recovery would be relatively easy.  Compared to cracking the chest, it definitely is, but I was reminded by the surgeon that it is still major surgery.  So, aside from the six incisions in my back and side, and the nerve pain, I am in the final stages of recovery.

As I look back on the whole experience, I was pleased with the degree of interoperability of the healthcare system, and what modern technology can do.  First, there is the da Vinci Surgical System (  It amazes me how intricate surgeries can be performed so effectively.  As the surgeon said, he could have Parkinson’s disease, and the robot can filter it out internally!

Next, I marvel at a facility that employs an EMR in terms of the integration.  On several occasions I had either bloodwork or imaging studies and within a matter of minutes, the responsible clinicians had results.  Over the Memorial Day weekend, there was concern that I might develop more plural effusion, so a chest x-ray was ordered at a remote clinic facility near my home.  Within minutes, the general practitioner and surgeon were able to collaborate over both the chest film and bloodwork, and determine that there was no interval change, and I was good for the weekend. 

Within a matter of days, all lab and radiographic results were even accessible to me as a patient through the facilities patient portal. 

I can’t say enough about the service I received at Aurora Healthcare (  Their Aurora Medical Center in Summit was like staying at a hotel.  This was first class healthcare, and I am grateful for its availability.

In contrast, a comment from a Canadian colleague reminded me of just how fortunate we are in the U.S.  She stated that if I had been part of the Canadian healthcare system, the likely course would be to continue to follow the mass until there was a change, which could have meant a significant period of consternation over the cause and outcome.  And, the availability to robotic surgery could be scarcer.

So, I am thankful for the capabilities of modern medicine, the accessibility to these healthcare resources, and the outcome!