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Dr. Matt Acker is a urologic oncologist at the Saint John Regional Hospital. Image: Submitted/Saint John Regional Hospital Foundation

New Robot Helping Perform Surgeries At N.B. Hospital

By Brad Perry Dec 12, 2022 | 4:57 AM

A cutting-edge robot is helping surgeons perform minimally invasive surgery at one New Brunswick hospital.

The Saint John Regional Hospital recently completed the province’s first robotic-assisted surgery in October.

Dr. Matt Acker was part of the surgical team that performed the first procedure using the da Vinci robot.

“As a surgeon group, we’ve been advocating for this technology at multiple levels for eight years,” Acker, a urologic oncologist at the hospital, said in an interview.

Robot helps with more complex procedures

The robot has four arms — one with a camera — that are all controlled by a surgeon as they navigate via 3D high-definition video.

Surgeons can use specialized tools that are designed to help with precise dissection and reconstruction deep inside the body.

“We can perform operations in a far more precise way than the conventional surgery,” said Acker. “It allows us to do more complex and challenging cases in a less invasive approach.”

Acker said the cutting-edge technology will also be a benefit for recruitment efforts, noting many surgical training programs are now teaching robotic surgical approaches to some procedures.

Hundreds of donors help raise money

The Saint John Regional Hospital Foundation raised $4.2 million to support the surgical program. The campaign was entirely donor funded, with more than 1,100 donors.

Officials expected it would take two or three years to reach that goal, but Acker said it happened in about six months.

“It’s a testament to the generosity of our donor community who really see the incredible benefit of bringing this technology to Saint John and the people of New Brunswick,” he said.

Acker said there were “a bit of nerves” ahead of the first surgery on Oct. 21, but the hospital had a well-trained team to help make the program a success.

The first robotic-assisted surgery team also included urologic oncologist Dr. Scott Bagnell, nurses Chanti Garrett, Courtny Chedore and Stephanie Anstey, and anesthesiologist Dr. Todd Chedore.

‘I spent one night in the hospital’: first patient

Emile Hachey, the province’s first robotic-assisted-surgery patient, said he feels fantastic after undergoing surgery for prostate cancer.

“I spent one night in the hospital, and the next morning I came home,” Hachey said in a news release from the hospital foundation.

Nearly 20 robotic prostatectomies for patients with prostate cancer have been completed to date, said Acker, with about 20 other patients on a waitlist.

“During the initial rollout of our program, we’ve limited our surgeries to that one procedure to gain expertise, train up our team, and gain the efficiencies that we need,” he said.

Acker said their next step is to start performing complex kidney cancer surgeries. The program will eventually be expanded to other specialities, including cardiac, thoracic and gynecology.


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