‘Da Vinci’ Robotic Surgeon Brings Cutting-Edge Treatment To Northwest Wyoming  

Cody Regional Health has invested millions of dollars in a new robotic surgical system that offers less-invasive procedures and faster recovery. Though robotic, a real doctor still controls the system.

Andrew Rossi

January 03, 20245 min read

Cody regional health da vinci 1
(Courtesy Cody Regional Health)

Cody Regional Health is adding a new tool to its surgical staff: da Vinci. And starting in April, hospital leaders plan for it to be seeing its first patients.

The Cody Regional Health Foundation acquired a da Vinci Surgical System for the hospital's Surgical Services Department. According to CEO Doug McMillian, the multi-million-dollar robot is “a game changer” for the regional hospital.

“We're really excited about it,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “This is going to bring new technology to Cody Regional Health that will be of great service to our patients, most importantly, as well as our physicians and surgeons that operate on patients in Cody. It’s the right thing to do.”

Anatomical Precision

The da Vinci Surgical System, built by Intuitive Surgical, is designed for soft tissue surgical procedures, primarily for urologists, gynecologists, and general surgeons. Instead of a traditional surgery requiring a large incision and handheld equipment, the da Vinci only needs a small incision while the surgeon remotely controls the tools.

A surgeon controls the multiple arms of the da Vinci from a console in the same room as the patient. The surgeon gets a 3D high-definition view of the procedure from the console while working with a much greater range of motion.

Cody Regional Health is the second hospital in Wyoming to acquire the system, which can cost around $2 million. The High Plains Surgery Center in Cheyenne has a da Vinci Surgical System and three providers that offer general, colorectal, and gynecological surgical procedures.

McMillian said the robotic system isn’t a replacement for the fine-honed skills of surgeons, especially since the da Vinci cannot work without a human operator. But more up-and-coming surgeons are expecting a da Vinci in their workplaces.

“When they come out of their training, they want to go somewhere with this technology,” he said. “We spoke to 10 general surgeons, and nine out of 10 said they had to have this technology wherever they practice. More physicians are more comfortable using robotics because of the better outcomes.”

Cody Regional Health just hired Rebecca Deal as its new General Surgeon and is looking to hire more health care professionals in the future. Access to a da Vinci Surgical System is becoming increasingly important to recruiting and retaining a new generation of physicians, hospital leaders said.  

“Its precision and minimally invasive capabilities will enhance our ability to perform complex procedures with greater accuracy,” Deal said. “This advanced technology not only benefits our patients by reducing surgery time and promoting quicker recovery but also empowers our surgical team to provide the best possible care."

Close To Home

New technologies are revolutionizing medical procedures worldwide, and even rural hospitals are expected to provide a higher standard of care. McMillian said that’s why Cody Regional Health started exploring the potential of a da Vinci Surgical System.

“We've seen other hospitals purchase robotics, mainly because of patient and consumer demand, as well as physicians' interest,” he said. “The market demands it, and consumers are demanding it, primarily because of the benefits it provides to the patient. More precision in surgery, better outcomes, quicker recovery, pain management, and other benefits.”

McMillian said the hospital watched Intuitive Surgical grow its presence over the last decade as one of the only vendors building robotics for soft tissue surgeries. The precision of the robotic system is augmented by improved outpatient procedures that make it a popular option for patients and providers.

In addition to the benefits of shorter recovery times and reduced pain medication for patients, utilizing the da Vinci Surgical System is expected to expand the range of procedures available at Cody Regional Health. That would allow residents of Northwest Wyoming to receive and recover from procedures without going to another city or state.

Still, every Cody Regional Health patient can opt out of a da Vinci procedure.

“This would be something that would be part of the patient's informed consent,” he said. “Both verbally by the provider as well as in writing, that the patients are aware of the procedure being done by the surgeon using robotics.”  

Optimal Care

Intuitive Surgical is training the surgical staff at Cody Regional Health so they learn how to work skillfully with the da Vinci Surgical System. Physicians are using a simulation of the system to become familiar with the controls.  

The first general surgery and gynecological procedures using the da Vinci are slated to begin in April 2024.

McMillian said he understands how surgery via robot might be unsettling or off-putting. However, he said he hopes future patients will come to the da Vinci Surgical System as just another tool to augment the skills of its surgeons and physicians.

“The surgeon is still in the room,” he said. “It's not the technology that's providing the optimal care. It's the surgeon utilizing the technology well.”

Andrew Rossi can be reached at arossi@cowboystatedaily.com.

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Andrew Rossi

Features Reporter

Andrew Rossi is a features reporter for Cowboy State Daily based in northwest Wyoming. He covers everything from horrible weather and giant pumpkins to dinosaurs, astronomy, and the eccentricities of Yellowstone National Park.