Robot brings high-tech surgery to Osceola Regional

Sophia, a more than $2 million robot, was the center of attention throughout the day at Osceola Regional Medical Center on Tuesday.

Physicians and residents gathered in the lobby of Osceola Regional Medical Center Tuesday for a first-hand look at a high-tech hands-off approach to non-invasive surgery.

Sophia, a more than $2 million fourth-generation robot by a company called Da Vinci, was the center of attention throughout the day as members of the community explored how the sophisticated machine works, while learning about the impact it’s having on the lives of Osceola County patients.

The robotic assistant allows surgeons to perform more intensive operations with fewer incisions. The minimally invasive approach results in less blood loss, less discomfort and a faster recovery time for patients.

Robotic surgery isn’t new at Osceola Regional Medical Center – the technology has been in place at the Kissimmee-based hospital since 2011. The last surgical assistant created by the company Da Vinci, was donated to the Poinciana Medical Center last year.

But hospital staff say Sophia – which has been operational since February – is different.

For physicians like Dr. Sara DeNardis, a gynecological oncologist, the latest generation of robot allows her to perform delicate surgery on ovarian tumors and cysts, hysterectomies and other procedures associated with cervical and ovarian cancers.   

“It is definitely a better way to perform the surgery, mostly for the patient’s benefit,” DeNardis said in a video presentation at Tuesday’s demonstration.

But DeNardis noted that Sophia helps take pressure off surgeons by allowing them to sit instead of stand at the operating table for long periods of time while holding heavy instruments. Things like shaky hands and fatigue are no longer major hurdles.

“I’m also able to better assist myself, and not rely on the operating room staff as much because I can control the camera myself instead of telling someone else to zoom in or out,” DeNardis said. “It’s definitely advantageous.”

Sophia has performed 214 procedures at Osceola Regional since she became operational Feb. 5. In addition to gynecological surgeries, Sophia can  assist with gallbladder removal, incontinence, endometriosis and some hernias.

Surgical tools are attached to the arms of the robot, which doctors then control remotely through one of two consoles. The two-console system allows multiple doctors to operate on a single patient, or for a student in residency to observe a surgeon in real time.

The viewfinder gives doctors an immersive 3D high resolution looking at what’s going on inside the patient’s body.

Rich defined images allow doctors to see important, small details like nerve endings, blood vessels and more, minimizing room for error.

Sensitive hand controls let physicians manipulate three arms on the robot, and there is also a set of foot pedals that operate camera features to allow even more control during a procedure.

“We are so excited to offer this kind of technology to patients,” said Vanessa Guevara, marketing director at Osceola Regional Medical Center. “It makes things easier on the surgeons, but mostly, it improves the lives of patients. There’s less pain and faster healing, which allows people to get back to their normal lives so much sooner.”