Robot helps Hawaii's littlest patients on the operating table - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Robot helps Hawaii's littlest patients on the operating table

Dr. Devin Puapong Dr. Devin Puapong
Dr. Russell Woo Dr. Russell Woo
Dr. Devin Puapong Dr. Devin Puapong
Lele Palama and daughter Mahealani Palama-Nihipali Lele Palama and daughter Mahealani Palama-Nihipali
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Pediatric medicine in Hawaii is going robotic!

The DaVinci Surgical System looks and sounds like it came straight out of the movie, Transformers, and the technology is providing parents and tiny patients with more options in the operating room.

Dr. Devin Puapong is several feet away from the operating table, but he's demonstrating how he'd perform on a pediatric patient - using the DaVinci robot. His colleague, Dr. Russell Woo, explains the process. "These small wrists, which are robotically-controlled, are basically mimicking the movements of his hands."

It's easy for Dr. Puapong to maneuver a penny around with the robot, and it's a cinch for him to move and stretch a small rubber band. Doctors say, once you get the hang of it, it's quite natural. At the console, Puapong uses a 3D image to guide the robot's arms - unlike traditional procedures where doctors operate at a patient's side and look at a 2D screen to do things like stitch up a patient.

"What we, more and more, try to do now is employ a minimally invasive approach where we put a videocamera into the belly button and then, use small instruments to, kind of, do the dissection and operation," says Dr. Puapong.

While one surgeon is handling the robot at the console, a second doctor stands next to the operating table to make sure everything goes smoothly. Size and spacing of instruments are the biggest challenges for pediatric doctors working on their little patients, and the robot gives surgeons more mobility and flexibility than standard, laparoscopic instruments.

The system isn't new, but it's new to pediatric care in Hawaii. Kapiolani Medical Center offers it for a wide-range of surgeries.

In late October, 18-month-old Mahealani Palama-Nihipali was only the second pediatric patient in Hawaii to undergo robotic surgery. She'd been having intestinal trouble and couldn't keep food down. At first, her parents were nervous about the idea of a robot, but with a team nearby, they gave the go-ahead.

"With the whole robot thing, it's like an extra step and more heads inside the room - so we just felt more comfortable that she got all of that attention," says Mahea's father, Lele Palama.

Doctors say robotic surgery can be less painful, less scarring, with quicker recovery. Just three weeks later, little Mahea, for instance, is now eating solids, gaining weight, and has more energy to give her doctor a friendly fist pump.


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