Removal of the gallbladder using a single, minimally-invasive incision is now possible using Northwest Hospital’s da Vinci Si Robotic Surgical System.

Gall bladder removal – or cholecystectomy – has historically been done with open surgery, or later, as a laparoscopic procedure. Now, single-incision cholecystectomy with the da Vinci system is the first — and currently the only — single-site robotic procedure approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Two Northwest Hospital surgeons, Dr. Nicole White and Dr. Alison Perrin, were among the first in the area to perform single-site cholecystectomy using the da Vinci robot. Potential benefits of single-site gallbladder surgery include virtually scarless results, minimal pain, low blood loss, fast recovery, a short hospital stay and high patient satisfaction. The surgery can be performed in about one hour with a typical hospital stay of less than 24 hours. Most patients go home a few hours after surgery.

Unlike previous robotic cholecystectomy surgeries requiring three to five small incisions, the surgeon uses robotic assistance to place instruments and remove the diseased gallbladder through a single, approximately one-inch incision in the belly button.

During the procedure, the surgeon sits at a console, viewing a 3-D, high-definition image of the patient’s anatomy. The surgeon uses controls below the viewer to move the robotic instrument arms and camera. In real time, the system translates the surgeon’s hand, wrist and finger movements into highly precise movements of surgical instruments inside the patient.

More than 1 million people in the U.S. have their gallbladders removed each year. According to the American College of Surgeons, surgery is the recommended treatment for gallbladder pain from gallstones and non-functioning gallbladders. Many have traditional, multi-incision laparoscopic surgery. However, most people who require gallbladder removal are candidates for robotic, single-incision surgery.

The da Vinci system is widely used in a range of complex, minimally invasive surgeries. In addition to gallbladder removal, Northwest Hospital surgeons routinely perform robotic-assisted gynecologic, gynecologic oncologic, urologic, thoracic and general surgery procedures. The hospital began offering robotic surgery in 2007. The upgraded da Vinci Si system, which the hospital acquired in 2012, provides dual consoles to support training and collaboration. The da Vinci is the only robotic surgical system with high-definition 3-D vision, and offers “Firefly” fluorescence imaging of tissue and blood vessels through injection of a fluorescence dye activated by near-infrared light.