Rise of the Machines

The first-ever robot-assisted surgery in the Air Force took place April 10 at Wilford Hall Medical Center in San Antonio. Lt. Col. (Dr.) Kyle Weld, endourology director of the 59th Surgical Specialties Squadron, performed a laparoscopic prostatectomy—the surgical removal of prostate cancer—using a surgical robot. The device provides both a magnified, high-definition, 3-D view for the surgeon and converts the surgeon’s hand movements into very precise movements of tiny instruments inside the patient. “The procedure went great,” said Weld, adding, “The patient went home on schedule with minimal blood loss and pain.” Already more surgeries are planned with the device, which arrived in March at a cost of more than $1 million. Funding has been requested for a second unit to use for training. Other uses for the robot in urology include kidney removals and some kidney reconstruction procedures. It could also be used in other surgical fields. (Lackland report by SSgt. Robert Barnett)