VA in Buffalo using cutting-edge surgical tech


BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Surgical care for those who have served our country has come a very long way. Now, veterans are receiving the surgical care of the future at the VA in Buffalo.

The VA is using a surgical robot in its OR to provide patients the latest advances in care.

In fact, the VA replaced its original robot, which it first purchased in 2014, with an updated one in 2018 to take advantage of the improving technology.

“The robot, because of the little hands you have in there, allows you to do everything the way you would do it open, just through tiny incisions,” explained general surgeon Dr. Meliton Silva, referring to the difference between open surgery with traditional incisions and the minimally invasive surgeries that are possible through the use of the surgical robotics.

The applications are wide ranging. Originally, the VA was using the technology for urological surgeries, improving outcomes for things like prostate removal procedures. Then, the uses expanded to include everything from bowel resections and hernia repairs to hysterectomies and more.

Dr. Silva explained the robotics have advantages even over traditional laparoscopic surgical tools. While both allow surgeons to perform minimally invasive surgeries, the robotic procedures are even less invasive because the robotic arms have a greater range of motion allowing even more precision.

The surgical robotics can make a big difference for patient outcomes.

“Usually it leads to less pain, less narcotic use, faster recovery, faster going back to normal activities,” Dr. Silva said.

The surgeons at the VA have gone through extensive training to be able to use the tools effectively.

“We think it has great advantages and we’re very pleased that we have it available for our veterans,” gynecologist Dr. Paul Wopperer told News 4.

Dr. Wopperer says he’s grateful to have the opportunity to use the robotics at the VA especially, since he says the military was instrumental in developing the technology for remote battlefield operations.

“The surgeons were off-site actually using the console with the robot,” Dr. Wopperer said. “The instruments were placed at the MASH unit and the surgeons were off site actually performing the surgery.”

In the VA’s OR, the surgeons sit feet from their patient at consoles. They’re able to get an incredibly detailed view of the area on which they are operating, leading to safer surgeries, Dr. Silva pointed out.

“All this technology is a big investment, but the VA thought it’s worth it. It’s worth it to take care of the veterans and give them all of the benefits that they can get,” he said.

You can learn more about the VA Western New York Healthcare System and the benefits offered for veterans here.

News 4’s Katie Alexander had the chance to check out the surgical robotics at the VA on Thursday morning. Click the videos below to see our full Wake Up coverage.

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