Patients benefit from single-incision robotic-assisted lung cancer surgery at North Central Baptist Hospital

Dec 22, 2023

Baptist Health System grows lung surgery program with technology, navigator and multi-disciplinary expertise

Kayla Byrd, lung cancer nurse navigator (left) and Dr. Gustavo Guajardo-Salinas, cardiothoracic surgeon, proudly stand with the Ion endoluminal system, a robotic-assisted platform for precise minimally invasive biopsy of the lung available to patients at North Central Baptist Hospital.

(San Antonio, TX) - Lung cancer is the deadliest cancer in Texas and the United States claiming more lives than colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined. Thanks to surgeons at North Central Baptist Hospital, San Antonians now have access to innovative surgical procedures to remove cancers and treat disorders of the lungs. Surgeons at North Central Baptist Hospital in Stone Oak are now able to remove cancerous and other lung tumors with a single incision, of approximately 1.5 inch, using robotic and thoracoscopic techniques (uniportal video-assisted thoracoscopic surgical approach). The procedure allows for less blood loss, avoids complications, and promotes swifter healing and positive patient outcomes. In addition, the hospital has grown its lung cancer treatment program to include a new tumor biopsy platform called the Ion endoluminal system as well as a dedicated RN patient navigator to help lung cancer patients along their journey from diagnosis to recovery.

Cardiothoracic Surgeon Gustavo Guajardo-Salinas, M.D., specializes in thoracic surgery at North Central Baptist Hospital as part of treatment of patients with lung and esophageal cancers, nodules, cysts, or masses, and recurring fluid in the chest. Using the Da Vinci Xi® surgical robot, Dr. Guajardo and his team have now successfully performed the uniportal video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery on more than 100 patients to date at North Central Baptist Hospital. Patients average a 3-day post-surgical stay at the hospital as opposed to a previous 5-7 day-stay with open surgery and are able to return home and to more normal activities within just a few days.

In addition to this surgery, the hospital recently added the Ion endoluminal system, a robotic-assisted platform for minimally invasive biopsy of the lung. Physicians at North Central Baptist Hospital said the Ion’s catheter sizing and shape-sensing technology allow them more enhanced reach, precision, and stability over manual technologies, and minimize complication rates. This technology is allowing Dr. Guajardo and his team to more precisely collect lung tissue samples for biopsy safely and simply, even when nodules are tiny and located in very hard to reach locations in the peripheral lung.

“A diagnosis of cancer can be devastating to a patient,” Dr. Guajardo said. “We can help give patients peace of mind by providing them with a fast and safe diagnosis using the new Ion. We can now offer our patients the robotic surgery requiring only one small incision and a faster recovery time, which can help ease our patients’ stress and gives them hope and a swifter recovery,” Dr. Guajardo said. “Also, having a dedicated lung cancer patient navigator to walk each patient through every step from diagnosis to surgery to recovery, demonstrates our commitment to helping these patients mend physically and emotionally so they can get back more quickly to living their normal lives,” he said.

Dr. Guajardo said that previously, surgeons would need to open the chest wall of patients to reach the lungs creating a six-inch incision below the tip of the shoulder blade, typically between the fifth and sixth ribs, and spread the ribs to reach a tumor.

By 2003, surgery evolved into minimally invasive thoracic surgery allowing the surgeon to use a surgical robot to make four to five small incisions in the chest wall that did not require spreading apart of the ribs. Surgeons use a camera and instruments to get to the lung through small incisions in between the ribs. However, the technology evolved quickly during the last decade with the help of the latest technologies including specially designed instruments, better high-definition cameras and more angulated staplers. Using the Da Vinci Xi, surgeons adapted the robotic surgery to the uniportal approach, the latest platform, by configuring the robots arms to allow for the reduction in the number of incisions from four to only one.

In 2021, surgeons in Spain were the first in the world to use the Da Vinci Xi to perform the first fully robotic anatomic resections using the uniportal single incision technique. Today, Dr. Guajardo and his team are the only group in San Antonio using this latest uniportal video-assisted thoracoscopic (uVATS/uRATS) surgical approach to remove cancerous and other tumors of the lungs. Dr. Guajardo said he is grateful to offer this technology and treatment to patients in San Antonio.

“With surgery in general, people seem to think that if they’re referred to a surgeon that they’re going to experience a difficult surgical procedure with a lengthy recovery time. This is far from the truth,” Dr. Guajardo said. “Most of my work involves minimally invasive techniques. One of the best parts of my job is operating on patients and then seeing them walking around just a few hours later and going home to recover. It’s amazing what is possible, thanks to technological advancements in cancer care. This technology, combined with a dedicated patient navigator specifically focused on our lung cancer patients at North Central Baptist is something we are very proud of that will benefit our lung patients immensely,” he said.

North Central Baptist hospital recently also initiated a multi-specialty lung nodule conference that involves the coming together of specialists from thoracic surgery, medical oncology, radiation oncology, primary care, radiology, and pathology to discuss the best course of treatment for patients diagnosed with lung nodules.

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