It was on a Friday and Dr. Brad Stanley was ready for surgery. He was to remove a cancerous prostate.

It was on a Friday and Dr. Brad Stanley was ready for surgery. He was to remove a cancerous prostate.

For this surgery, and more to follow later, Stanley won’t be standing beside the patient when he performs the operation. No, he’ll be about 15 feet away. He will be seated. And he will be looking a lot like a scientist or chemist who peeks through a microscope.

Stanley, a urologist at St. Luke’s East hospital-Lee’s Summit, will be performing the surgery with a robot. It’s called the da Vinci Surgical System.

Seated at the machine, Stanley looks through a 3D high definition image of the surgical field. The surgeon’s fingers grip the controls below the display. As he twists his wrists and pinches the controls, the machine translates his hand, wrist and finger movements into precise and real-time movements of surgical instruments inside the patient.

In essence, Stanley controls three “arms” that do the surgery for him.

The machine’s three arms give the surgeon a range of motion that a human’s wrists can’t match.

“You have an infinite number of angles and movements you can do,” Stanley said.

There’s no trembling with the arms. Human hands, even in the most calm person, still tremble.

The operation area is magnified because of a camera that illuminates the surgery area. This gives the doctor a clear, wide and high definition view of the surgery location.

“We’re making tiny movements that you can never do with your hands,” Stanley said.

The benefits of the da Vinci machine are numerous, Stanley said.

“I like this machine a lot,” Stanley said, “and the patients like it even more.”

There’s less blood loss because of the arms’ ability to make smaller and precise incisions. And that means less scarring, less pain afterwards, less chance of infection, less recovery time. The improved recovery time, about a week earlier than traditional surgery, is attractive to patients, said Stanley. Workers can get back to their jobs quicker.

St. Luke’s East purchased the machine last year and started using it in late December. It cost $1.6 million.

It’s the only hospital in Eastern Jackson County that uses the technology. St. Luke’s hospital in Kansas City has several of the machines. The technology was first introduced in 2002.

“This was a capital investment by the hospital that we thought was important for Eastern Jackson County and for the patients out here,” said Joe Stasi, the hospital’s chief finance officer.  

The da Vinci system is used for all prostate cancer surgeries and for about 15 percent of kidney cancer surgeries, Stanley said. It can be used for any type of surgery. But the machine is not used for trauma surgeries.

 If the machine malfunctions during surgery, the operating room staff is prepared to transition to the traditional surgery method, said Vicky Anderson, the surgical services manager at the hospital. 

The machine has a fairly short learning curve for trained surgeons. But the device requires special training before a doctor performs a surgery.