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September 12, 2006 > Robotic Surgery Brightens Outcomes

Robotic Surgery Brightens Outcomes

Seminar Explores Revolutionary Treatment Options for Often Fatal Conditions

by Washington Hospital

There is no cure for your condition. These are the words no patient ever wants to hear from his or her physician. But for many years, this was the case with atrial fibrillation, a chronic and potentially fatal abnormal rhythm of the heart affecting two to three percent of the population.

On Tuesday, September 19, during a free Health & Wellness seminar, Dr. Sang Lee, a Washington Hospital Medical Staff thoracic surgeon, will shed light on a condition not many people are aware of. He will also share some very good news, including an impressively high cure rate for atrial fibrillation following new surgical techniques that have just come to the forefront of treatment options.

“There are basically four parts of your heart, and with atrial fibrillation the parts are not responding well to each other, causing an abnormal rhythm of the heart,” explains Dr. Lee. “This can lead to strokes, heart failure or a blood clot that forms in the heart. This is a very serious condition.”

It can affect anyone

Atrial fibrillation is not a condition that affects only one segment of the population; frighteningly, it can affect anyone, Dr. Lee says.

“Anybody can have this condition,” he says. “An elderly person can have this condition. Patients with other heart problems can have it. It’s not just one type of person that’s susceptible.”

The condition can be hereditary, congenital (present at birth) or brought on by lifestyle choices. Those with heart disease or lung disease can develop it; sometimes it’s genetic, or even brought on by drinking too much coffee, Dr. Lee adds.

Luckily, unlike some of the “silent killers” such as hypertension, high cholesterol or diabetes, there are early signs alerting patients to this condition.

“Patients will feel what are called palpitations, which is a feeling that their heart is beating too fast or that their heart is feeling ‘lumpity bumpity’,” Dr. Lee says. “Some people will present chest pains or shortness of breath. There are many different symptoms. It depends on the individual.”

Surgery leads to amazing results

While atrial fibrillation can be fatal, the outcome is highly dependent upon how quickly a person seeks treatment, as well as his or her age and medical history, including other health problems. Dr. Lee says the good news is that through robotic surgery – as opposed to traditional medical treatment, which has in the past involved controlling the condition through drug therapy – most patients are looking at walking away from surgery completely cured from this chronic condition.

“There was no standard surgery for atrial fibrillation until recently,” according to Dr. Lee.

“Surgery itself is a new way of treating this condition. You’re taking a chronic problem and hopefully getting rid of it and that was never possible with medical therapy. There is an 85 to 90 percent chance that this condition will completely go away after surgery.”

Advanced technology

Dr. Lee uses robotic equipment called the da Vinci Surgical System that allows surgeons to operate through tiny incisions - roughly the diameter of a pencil. A stainless steel rod containing a camera transmits three-dimensional images from inside the body to a viewfinder on the control panel. The images show the surgical site and the finger-like instruments mounted on the tips of the other two rods. While viewing the images, the surgeon uses controls resembling “joysticks” to make intricate movements using the surgical instruments remotely.

The advantages this minimally invasive robotic surgery include less pain after surgery, reduced blood loss, a lower risk of infection and a faster recovery, Dr. Lee notes.

“Washington Hospital’s cardiac and thoracic surgery program is on the cutting edge with a team of medical professionals focused on taking care of the patient as a whole,” he says of the program that treats patients suffering from atrial fibrillation, as well as many other types of conditions.

Knowing your options with lung cancer

During his seminar, Dr. Lee will also discuss surgical treatment for lung cancer, which remains the most deadly form of cancer in the Unites States.

“Surgical treatment is still the mainstay of therapy for those in the early stages of lung cancer,” Dr. Lee explains.

As with any other type of cancer, one of the most important factors affecting treatment is early diagnosis. This is especially true for lung cancer, which is oftentimes not caught until later stages. “The treatment options for lung cancer are varied, and patients need to have information to make the best decision for them,” Dr. Lee says.

Learn more!

Dr. Lee will present his seminar, “Robotic Surgery for Atrial Fibrillation and Lung Cancer,” on Tuesday, Sept. 19, from 1 to 2 p.m. in Rooms A & B of the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium of the Washington West building located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont across the street from the main hospital.

To register for this class, call Washington Hospital’s toll free Health Connection line at (800) 963-7070.

To view past Health & Wellness classes, visit www.whhs.com, click on “For Our Community,” select “Health Classes & Support Groups” and choose “Videostream of Past Classes.” You can also tune into Washington Hospital’s InHealth Channel, Comcast Channel 78, to view original programming about your local community hospital.

 
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