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Skagit Regional Health to offer robotic-assisted surgery

August 10, 2018
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Customer representative Abby Finnegan watches the screen as a person operates the da Vinci Surgical System, a robotic surgery tool system that was being demonstrated to the public Monday afternoon at Skagit Regional Health's hospital lobby in Mount Vernon.

MOUNT VERNON — Using two tiny mechanical claws, community members tested out Skagit Regional Health’s new robotic surgery system Monday by unwrapping Starburst candies and moving around mini-rubber rings.

Skagit Regional Health will begin offering surgeries aided by the robotic system in September.

“With this instrument, I can do really complex surgeries and stay minimally invasive,” surgeon Joel Dean said.

The system is so precise, users can write their names on a grain of rice with it, Director of Marketing and Communications Kari Ranten said.

It also offers other perks, such as the ability to check organs for blood flow during surgery, Dean said.

Skagit Regional Health bought the system in May for $2 million, Ranten said.

Dean completed a yearlong fellowship in Salt Lake City, where he learned to use the system.

Before the training, Dean said the system’s hefty price tag made him skeptical of its necessity.

“Because its ability to do detailed, fine movements in surgery are so advanced, I quickly became a fan,” he said.

Less recovery time, shorter hospital stays and a lower chance of infection are all advantages of using the system, CEO Brian Ivie said.

“Some people won’t even consider having a surgery at a hospital that doesn’t have a system like this,” he said.

A handful of general practice surgeons are being trained to use the system, Dean said, with the hope of transitioning the technology to additional specialties such as urology and gynecology in the near future.

While a surgeon’s skill is ultimately the most important factor in a successful surgery, Ivie said, the robotic system is a tool that helps surgeons achieve the best work possible.

“You want the best tools available when you’re doing such complex procedures,” Dean said.

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