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Robotic surgery is not new. It’s often used for gynecological and uterine procedures, to repair hernias or to remove the prostate. But there are limitations, particularly when it comes to pediatric uses.

But there is a new system to make surgery kid friendly.

Antonio Garcia had gallstones. He was experiencing pain and was at risk for infection.

Dr Thom E Lobe is chief of pediatric surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital.

“We recommend taking the gallbladder out in these kids because if you just take the stone out another one is going to form,” Lobe said.

It’s a procedure often done using a less invasive approach, often a robot.

“The problem with the current robotics is that the instruments are quite large,” Lobe said.

Standard attachments are 8 mm in diameter, about the size of a finger.

Now new, smaller-scale attachments are part of the Senhance System at Mount Sinai Hospital. Lobe used the device to treat Antonio.

‘At first, I was thinking all the possible ways the robot could malfunction, since it’s future technology of course,” Antonio said.

“When we can use these smaller instruments in a patient, there’s very little discomfort to the patient,” Lobe said. “We’re going right through the abdominal wall, there’s barely a wound to suture up at that point…. The Senhance has a safety feature that I really like for the kids. It only works if you have your foot on the pedal or the accelerator essentially. … And the whole thing ends up being less expensive because these 3-mm instruments are reusable.” 

Antonio underwent the robotic gallbladder removal in September.

“This was our first patient, first pediatric patient done in the United States actually,” Lobe said.

“Overall it went pretty good. I recovered pretty quickly,” Antonio said.

Three more young patients, including an 8-year-old, have benefitted from the kid-sized-tools.

“Probably in very short order we’re going to have the biggest pediatric experience in the world using this particular robotic system,” Lobe said.

“Crazy to think about how out of billions of people I was one of the first and under 18, too,” Antonio said.

Lobe said his goal is to use the instruments on smaller patients, even newborns, and for more sophisticated surgeries. The system requires a bit more set up time, but the procedure length is about the same.