YOUR HEALTH: A new surgical robot helps doctors “feel” the operation they’re performing

The FDA-approved Senhance system helps surgeons “feel” their way through delicate surgeries.

ORLANDO, Florida – A newly approved surgical robot is letting doctors not only see delicate operations but feel them as well.

The Senhance system for minimally-invasive abdominal surgery provides real-time feedback through a surgeon's own fingertips.

It helped 59-year old Deliz Flores.

She was living in Puerto Rico two years ago when she started having sharp pain in her abdomen.  But before she could see her doctor, Hurricane Maria struck.

"I couldn't keep the appointment," she said.   "Everything was turned upside down."

Deliz relocated to Orlando with family,   But in the months it took to resettle, her symptoms got much worse.

Doctors found a colon polyp that needed to come out.

"I got scared. Very scared. I said this is something I have to do right away."

Colorectal surgeon Teresa DeBeche-Adams thought Deliz would be a good candidate for surgery with a new robotic system called the Senhance.

Tiny surgical tools are inserted through small holes in a patient's abdomen. surgeons control the robot from a work station.

Special glasses allow them to see inside the body in 3-D. but Dr. DeBeche-Adams says the biggest difference is haptic feedback.

"It actually moves a little bit if we're putting too much tension on the tissues or pushing too hard," said Dr. DeBeche-Adams.  "The robot actually tells us that's happening."

NEW TECHNOLOGY:  The Senhance Surgical Robotic System received FDA clearance in October 2017, making it the first new market entrant to abdominal surgical robotics since 2000.   For the first time in a robotic surgical platform, eye-tracking camera control enables surgeons to move the laparoscopic camera simply by moving their eyes.   With haptic feedback, they can 'feel' forces encountered by the robotic arms.

Surgeons were able to remove Deliz's polyp, which was cancerous.

"We did a perfect cancer operation for her," said Dr. DeBeche-Adams.

"All of the margins were negative.   None of the lymph nodes had any spread to it.   So she's pretty much done."

Deliz couldn't be happier.

"I'm 100 percent confident I made the right choice."

Dr. DeBeche-Adams says in addition to cancer surgery, the Senhance can be used to treat conditions like Crohn's disease.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.