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Vol.28, No.1 Winter/Spring 2018

At the forefront of lung cancer care nyu winthrop leads the way in the area of robotic surgery

With a host of lung conditions affecting so many Long Islanders, it is vital they have a place they can turn to that is equipped not only with the latest technology, but the expertise to be treated successfully.

NYU Winthrop Hospital was pleased to recently welcome Laurence Spier, MD, Chief of the Division of Thoracic Surgery, to its already stellar multidisciplinary cardiothoracic surgical team, which has long been committed to providing patients with the very best care. Dr. Spier is renowned for his skill in performing a wide range of procedures related to the chest including those aimed at eradicating lung cancer – the leading cause of cancer deaths in both men and women in the United States. Dr. Spier has a powerful tool to help combat the statistics. He utilizes the da Vinci Xi robot to perform minimally invasive surgery, a method that increases cancer survivability at the four-year mark by an impressive 15 percent. Why does the robotic procedure make such a difference?

Laurence Spier, MD, was ranked as one of the busiest robotics thoracic surgeons in the nation in 2017 and is one of only a few thoracic surgeons in the United States who has performed more than 1000 robotic thoracic procedures.

“Robotic surgery allows for a minimally invasive platform, utilizing small incisions yet allowing for meticulous precision to the operation. This precision cannot be duplicated with any other approach available,” explains Dr. Spier, “The result is faster recovery, less scarring and better outcomes for patients.”

When performing robotic lung surgery, Dr. Spier sits behind a console that provides him a 3-D high-definition view of the inside of the chest cavity, which gives him a perfect view of the lung that he’s operating on. This visualization is also magnified 10 times, with the superior view of the surgical field enabling Dr. Spier to direct the robotic arms with extreme precision and seamlessly perform surgery. Dr. Spier describes how one can look at the back of a five-dollar bill and see all of the state names engraved at the top of the Lincoln Memorial. (Go ahead and try to find them with the naked eye. That’s what non-robotic surgery would be like!). With the robot visualization, the names of the state would appear much larger than the print on this page.

“In the United States, only about 20 to 30 percent of lobectomies are performed with a minimally invasive platform. Here at NYU Winthrop, almost 100 percent of the procedures are minimally invasive,” added Dr. Spier. This cuts a patient’s hospital stay to less than half of what is customary with other platforms – to just two to three days – and in most instances, there are no physical restrictions upon discharge.

“Due to our growing success and leadership in the field of robotic surgery, we are experiencing a tremendous surge in patients, from all over the country, traveling to NYU Winthrop to be treated for a range of thoracic conditions,” said Dr. Spier.

Already, the Division of Thoracic Surgery at NYU Winthrop is recognized as a “Robotics Epicenter,” one of less than a dozen in the nation. This distinction was awarded by Intuitive Surgical, Inc., the world’s leading maker of surgical robotics, and the designation indicates that NYU Winthrop is a nationally recognized trainer of surgeons in the field of robotics. Physicians from all over the United States come to NYU Winthrop to observe and learn from Dr. Spier and see the thoracic team in action.

Looking ahead, says Dr. Spier, “The future of robotics lies in software advancements such as imagery guided by artificial intelligence. I expect shortly that with the help of artificial intelligence, we won’t just see inside the chest cavity – we’ll be able to see directly into the lung itself. That will allow for easier resection of tumors and masses and thus cause even less damage to surrounding tissue.”

Among other thoracic procedures performed within NYU Winthrop’s Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery is lung reduction surgery, which is sometimes indicated for patients with severe emphysema. In that complex procedure, non-functioning areas of the lung are removed, and the lung is reshaped into a smaller organ with a more functional diaphragm.

NYU Winthrop has long been a leader in the field of robotic surgery. Among the specialty procedures offered are:

  • Hysterectomy
  • Prostatectomy
  • Colon resection
  • Gastric bypass surgery
  • General abdominal surgery
  • Gynecologic oncology surgery
  • Sacrocolpopexy to repair vaginal and uterine prolapse

For more information about robotic surgery at NYU Winthrop, call 1-866-WINTHROP.

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