Lehigh Valley, Pa.,
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LVHN Marks 10,000th Robotic Surgical Procedure

Minimally invasive program, which began in 2008 with one robot, now has five robots serving four hospitals

In some ways, it feels like only yesterday when Martin Martino, MD, thinks about the first days of Lehigh Valley Health Network’s (LVHN) minimally invasive robotic surgery program with just one robot and a handful of clinicians at Lehigh Valley Hospital (LVH)–17th Street.

Nine years later, the program has expanded to the point where it includes five robots and more than 40 surgeons across 10 service lines working in four hospitals – LVH–Cedar Crest, LVH–Muhlenberg, LVH–Pocono and LVH–Schuylkill. And as of Thursday, May 11, the program had served a total of 10,000 patients.

“This milestone is a tribute to the value of amazing teamwork and our health network’s commitment to caring for our community,” says Martino, a gynecological oncology surgeon who leads the robotic surgery program. “We’re so fortunate to have a highly skilled, multidisciplinary clinical team and a wonderful nursing staff that have allowed us to take on complicated cases resulting in outstanding outcomes.”

The 10,000th patient was Ann Marie Colo, a 73-year-old cancer patient from Dunmore, Pa. She was treated at a hospital near her northeastern Pennsylvania home and asked to be transferred to LVHN. Martino’s team performed a hysterectomy and a “sentinel” lymph node dissection robotically without complications. Colo went home to Dunmore the following day and as a result of this minimally invasive approach was able to spend Mother’s Day with her family.

The sentinel lymph node procedure with firefly technology is being used to help gynecologic oncology surgeons reduce the incidence of complications while improving detection rates. Lehigh Valley Health Network is the only center in the region offering this new technology.

“My husband Casper and I had heard so many great things about LVHN from people in our area and we are so glad we chose LVHN,” Colo says. “The nurses who helped me heard it was our 49th wedding anniversary and they bought us flowers. We feel very blessed.”

Colo admits to being uncertain about robotic surgery.

“I was a little skeptical at first, but Dr. Martino explained how everything worked and I trusted him completely,” Colo says. “I can't believe how far the medical field has come, and I would highly

recommend this surgery. I don't even feel like I had surgery. I’ve had very little pain since the procedure.”

Colo’s surgical team included: Dennis Chyung, MD; Ashely Faden, MD; Sarah Wenrick, PA-C; Kendall Heyer, RN; Stephanie Nelson, RN; Tracy Weber, RN; Mike Wiesel, RN; Soraya Fehnel, CRNA.

When LVHN’s robotic program was launched in 2008, critics were unsure if robotic surgery would be safe and effective enough to be a useful surgical option. However, the outcomes from the team at LVHN have validated that robotic surgery is here to stay. A five-year validation trial published in 2014 by Martino and his team demonstrated how a robotic approach offered improved quality outcomes when compared to non-robotic approaches. Some medical experts are predicting that with the influx of competition expected over the next five years, about one-third of all surgeries will be performed robotically.

“Future surgical care will continue to advance over time and it is our goal to have LVHN leading these advancements to help improve care for our patients.” Martino says. “We’ve expanded our program dramatically and we look forward to continue offering our patients the most innovative surgical techniques to address many health conditions in the years to come. The potential of robotic procedures is continues to improve the way our physicians operate through a minimally invasive approach.”

About LVHN

Lehigh Valley Health Network includes eight hospital campuses - three in Allentown including the region's only facility dedicated to orthopedic surgery, one in Bethlehem, one in East Stroudsburg, one in Hazleton and two in Pottsville, Pa.; 26 health centers caring for communities in seven counties; numerous primary and specialty care physician practices and 18 ExpressCARE locations throughout the region including the area’s only Children’s ExpressCARE at the Health Center at Palmer Township; pharmacy, imaging, home health services and lab services; extensive inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services; and preferred provider services through Valley Preferred. Specialty care includes: trauma care at the region’s busiest, most-experienced trauma center treating adults and children, burn care at the regional Burn Center, kidney and pancreas transplants; perinatal/neonatal, cardiac, cancer care, orthopedics, and neurology and complex neurosurgery capabilities including national certification as a Comprehensive Stroke Center. The Lehigh Valley Cancer Institute, the Lehigh Valley Heart Institute and the Lehigh Valley Institute for Special Surgery give clinicians of the highest caliber the necessary infrastructure, programs and partnerships to help community members stay healthy and provide the most advanced treatment when needed. The Lehigh Valley Cancer Institute is a formal member of the Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Alliance, a transformative initiative to improve the quality of care and outcomes for people with cancer in community health care settings, including access to key MSK clinical trials. Robotic surgery is offered in ten specialties across the health network with more than 10,000 procedures performed since 2007. Lehigh Valley Children’s Hospital, the only children’s hospital and Level 4 NICU in the region, provides care in more than 30 specialties and general pediatrics. Lehigh Valley Hospital–Cedar Crest has been recognized among the top five hospitals in Pennsylvania by U.S. News & World Report for for five consecutive years. Lehigh Valley Hospital–Cedar Crest, Lehigh Valley Hospital–17th Street and Lehigh Valley Hospital–Muhlenberg are national Magnet hospitals for excellence in nursing. Additional information is available by visiting LVHN.org, or following us on Facebook and Twitter.