Trailblazing Technology How today’s tech is changing the face of healthcare in Atlanta
Northside Hospital uses the Gamma Knife® Perfexion™ unit to treat brain tumors and other neurologic disorders.
Four-armed robots, microscopic cameras, Gamma Knife Radio surgery—these are not gadgets or practices from a science-fiction movie, but real surgical equipment found in Atlanta’s hospitals. And although amazing technology is available all over the world, the scope is as broad as it comes in the metro area, leaving residents feeling assured that in the wake of injury or illness, they are in the hands of experienced and technologically advanced doctors who have access to the most cutting-edge resources available. In fact, the city’s outstanding healthcare facilities help restore patients to health by using minimally invasive and extraordinarily advanced equipment that puts these hospitals above the rest.
Much of today’s healthcare-based technology focuses on making surgeries more efficient and effective while being easier on patients’ bodies during and after treatment. And Atlanta’s hospitals are home to many of the best advancements in this arena.
The da Vinci® Surgical System used by WellStar Health System treats conditions like cancer, kidney disorders and coronary artery disease. WellStar surgeons operate the minimally-invasive robotic system at all times during the surgery, using an instrument on the machine that includes a tiny camera and light to send video footage to the doctors in the operating room. According to WellStar, “the da Vinci system does not replace the surgeon, but enhances the surgeon’s skills” by providing greater precision and versatility. And patients who need spinal, head and neck, heart, colon, urologic, gynecologic and general surgeries can also rely on da Vinci to reduce pain, trauma, scarring, blood loss and complications during and after the procedure.
Of course, Wellstar isn’t the only healthcare system using robotics to aid doctors during surgery. Northside Hospital is home to one of the top-ranked robotic surgery programs in the country and was one of Atlanta’s first hospitals to use this kind of technology. More than a decade after its first use of robotics, approximately 96 Northside surgeons have performed over 17,600 different robotic surgeries.
“It’s this level of expertise, combined with the skill and experience of the team of operating room nurses and surgical technologists at Northside, that leads to better patient outcomes and is critical in the success of using robotic technology,” says Vicki Barnett, director of surgical services at Northside.
In addition to this widespread use of robotic surgery equipment, Northside uses the very specialized Gamma Knife® Perfexion™ unit to treat brain tumors and other neurologic disorders. The Gamma Knife provides precise frameless treatment to more patients with fewer side effects than traditional brain surgery by targeting brain tissue while minimizing excess damage to healthy brain tissue. It functions by using advanced pre-treatments and images to correctly calculate what is needed for each surgery.
Atlanta’s outstanding healthcare facilities help restore patients to health by using minimally invasive and extraordinarily advanced equipment that puts these hospitals above the rest.
Beyond the Operating Room
In metro area hospitals, state-of-the-art technology is used in a wide variety of ways.
Piedmont Healthcare uses precision imaging technology in their mobile PET/CT scanning service, which uses Insight Imaging to detect cancer, as well as stroke and brain disorders like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases, early and accurately. A different part of the body is recorded during each scan so a complete picture of a tumor can be studied prior to treatment to prevent unnecessary pain caused by surgeries and inappropriate diagnoses.
Additionally, pain is something Emory Healthcare is eager to banish with its new spinal cord simulator, which uses the world’s smallest implantable spinal cord neurostimulator to relieve leg and lower back pain by interrupting pain signals traveling between the spinal cord and the brain. Emory is the first hospital system in Georgia to offer this technology, known as the Intellis System, for patients dealing which chronic pain caused by spinal and spinal cord injuries, scoliosis, degenerative spine problems and deformities.
Caring for Young Patients
Camera and imaging technology is some of the most useful equipment available today, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA) uses it as part of its pancreas, liver and bile duct treatments. The technology, called endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, or ERCP, is a minimally invasive intervention that can help patients with pancreatitis, stones in the bile or pancreatic duct, anatomical disorders, jaundice or traumatic injuries; these patients can be spared major invasive surgery thanks to the procedure’s combination of camera imaging, contrast dye and real-time X-rays. According to Field F. Willingham, MD, head of CHOA’s ERCP team, the technique requires “no abdominal incisions, which can save lives, spare children major abdominal surgery, repair a transplanted liver or cure pancreatitis. It is an honor to be able to able to care for children needing these procedures at Children’s, where the whole system is tuned around providing the best possible pediatric care.”
That same philosophy is applied to the use of CHOA’s exoskeleton technology. A wearable robot, the exoskeleton helps patients who have experienced paralysis or weakness in the lower body as a result of trauma learn to walk or use their leg muscles again. It does this by essentially walking for them, and as each patient grows stronger, the percentage for which the robot is walking for them can be lowered. For instance, a patient may start with the exoskeleton performing 95 percent of the walking effort but then be lowered to 50 percent or less based on his or her progress.
CHOA also uses mobile technology as part of its diagnostic and treatment initiatives. From a sports motion analysis tool that allows individuals under 21 to send videos via mobile device of them exercising or performing a task so they can be analyzed by a physical therapist to a smart phone app that is used to diagnose anemia based on photos of the patient’s fingernails, the hospital has embraced the most contemporary, sophisticated and user-friendly technology to help serve patients in truly unique ways.
With a patient-centered approach, CHOA, as well as hospitals across metro Atlanta, are staying ahead of the technological curve and changing the face of the local healthcare scene.