Dr. Victor Pricolo performs first Colectomy with Intracorporeal Anastomosis with the da Vinci Xi Robot

In a first for Southcoast Health, Dr. Pricolo and his surgical team have performed a robotic intracorporeal anastomosis after colon resection for cancer, using the DaVinci Xi robot. “The DaVinci Xi Robot has provided enhanced dexterity, precision, and control during such operations,” Dr. Pricolo says.

Victor Pricolo, MD, is the Chair of the Department of General Surgery and Chief of Colorectal Surgery at Southcoast Health, with offices in Dartmouth and Fall River, MA. 

Until recently, surgeons have usually been performing this type of operation either laparoscopically or through a large single incision, without robots’ assistance. However, Dr. Pricolo saw the opportunity provided by the enabling technology of the da Vinci Xi Robot. 

Over the past 25 years, advancements in technology have generated many advantages in laparoscopic procedures, including avoiding large open incisions or wounds and minimizing blood loss, pain, and discomfort. “One hurdle in laparoscopic procedures remains removing large cancerous growths,” he says. “The incisions made for the laparoscopic instruments are too small for sizable tissue removal, such as colon cancer. Therefore, an additional incision must be made large enough to perform the anastomosis (re-attaching the two bowel ends) outside the abdomen, given the difficulty and risks of infections or tissue breakdown when performing such tasks laparoscopically”. 

“In the past several months, our team took advantage of the decrease in elective surgical procedures due to COVID-19, and practiced regularly with our robotic simulator and in an animal lab setting, to plan the safe implementation of procedures using the DaVinci robot,” he shares. Upon resuming his elective caseload, Dr. Pricolo consulted on a patient who presented as an excellent candidate for robotic-assisted colon cancer surgery. 

“The robot offers several operative advantages over laparoscopic instruments: greater magnification, 3D vision and better light with the camera, and vastly better range of motion with instruments,” he says. “The ability to articulate such movements inside the patients through small incisions facilitates complex intracorporeal surgical skills, including suturing, bypassing, and removing diseased tissues, resulting in faster recovery and safer outcomes for the patient.”

In addition to providing advanced instrumentation, robotic-assisted surgery greatly enhances the surgeon’s ability to operate independently. “The latest robotic technology available at Southcoast Health with the DaVinci Xi Robot allows me complete control during the case”, Dr. Pricolo says. “During a laparoscopic procedure, I must rely on additional hands from assistants in the operating room. Using the robot, I can independently control several instruments, their angles, magnification, and movements. I feel like I have four hands!”

At Southcoast Health, we continue to stay at the forefront of robotic-assisted surgical technology. A spectrum of procedures can be performed with a surgical robot with greater accuracy and control than open or laparoscopic surgery. Robotic-assisted surgery is a technological advancement, and its use is likely to expand rapidly in the field of oncology

“If a surgical procedure is less invasive with smaller incisions, it provides not only an accelerated recovery, but less impact on the immune system, less delay if adjuvant chemotherapy is needed, and avoidance of blood transfusions – all key elements for my patients,” Dr. Pricolo says. 

“The entire operating room staff and technical support team have been fantastic in making all this possible. Together we have all received professional training and education in robotic-assisted procedures, the technology and the purpose of each instrument, and all operation steps. My team and I have already performed two additional similar cases, with equal success. We are also expanding all other robotic procedures by several other surgeons at Southcoast from the field of urology and gynecology to thoracic, bariatric, hernia, and gallbladder surgery. ” 

Southcoast Health mandates completion of training and certification to demonstrate proficiency and safety in executing essential robotic skills and procedural tasks prior to independent practice. 

This technology is emerging and evolving as a powerful tool. Southcoast Health is a proud supporter – highlighting the improved patient outcomes that robotic technology has enabled our surgeons to achieve. 

Our mission at Southcoast Health is to always provide our patients with the best services, programs, providers, and technologies – bringing world-class care close to home for our community. 

Southcoast Health has been recognized in 2019 and 2020 by US News and World Report as “High Performing in Colon Cancer Surgery” and Newsweek as one of “World’s Best Hospitals.”