Date: 1/17/2007

Dr. Howard Marcus is among only 64 surgeons nationwide to use the da Vinci Robotic Surgical System to perform less invasive hysterectomies

MUNSTER -- Obstetrician/gynecologist Howard Marcus, M.D., F.A.C.O.G., is among only 64 surgeons nationwide to use the new robotic da Vinci® Surgical System to perform less invasive hysterectomies. This new surgical option is available locally at Community Hospital in Munster. The system is in place at only 390 hospitals in the United States.

Initially used for prostate cancer surgery, physicians at Community Hospital are also pioneering new uses for this robotic technology. One of these new uses is to assist with minimally invasive hysterectomies for women. According to Dr. Marcus, the new surgical system has advantages to both patient and doctors.

By using the da Vinci system for hysterectomy surgery, the patient is left with only four or five half-inch or smaller incisions, on either side of the naval and above the naval. With abdominal hysterectomy, the incision is about 6 or 7 inches and goes from the naval down.

“To me personally, the main advantages are that the robot provides much finer articulation, meaning the surgeon has enhanced ability to control the instrument inside the patient; and the patient has less operative pain, less blood loss, less scar tissue, shorter length of hospital stay and a quicker recovery.”

The robotic arms of the da Vinci Surgical System provide a full-range of motion that resembles human hands, providing the surgeon with pinpoint accuracy. “The instruments exactly mimic the motions of my hands and wrists,” Dr. Marcus said. “It’s like having your hands inside the patient.” The surgeon sits at a console several feet away from the patient and uses hand controls as well as foot controls to operate the robotic arms.

The da Vinci Surgical System also provides the physician with better visibility through a three-dimensional lens system that magnifies the surgical field up to 15 times. “The three-dimensional view is unbelievable,” Dr. Marcus said. “It’s absolutely amazing—the control you have over the instruments. A lot of patients can benefit from it, and the technique is easy for doctors to learn.”

With conventional laparoscopic procedures (minimally invasive surgical techniques for abdominal surgeries), the doctor must stand over the patient instead of being seated at the console; view the surgery with a two-dimensional monitor, rather than a three-dimensional screen; and use long hand-held surgical instruments with no flexible wrist action unlike the increased control and manipulation provided by the da Vinci robot’s arms.

The robot has four arms, one of which controls a camera. Surgeons have their hands on two controls and their foot on a clutch, which allows to re-adjust the robotic hands in the patient. The clutch also allows the surgeon to move from controlling one arm to the other. Another foot pedal focuses the camera.

“This system enables me to do what would have been an abdominal hysterectomy with a large incision and 6-8 week recovery and turn it into an overnight stay at most,” Dr. Marcus said. “With the robotic surgery, recovery time is significantly less—a fraction of the time—and the patient can return to work in a couple of weeks.”

Patient Cindy Barnes, 49, said she is happy with the outcome of her surgery with the da Vinci Robotic System. If not for the da Vinci, Barnes, who was unable to have a vaginal hysterectomy, would have had to undergo the conventional abdominal hysterectomy, resulting in a larger scar and a long recovery time.

“I had a little soreness, but nothing like I thought it would be. It’s basically major surgery, but to me it wasn’t major at all. It’s awesome,” she said. “I’m very, very pleased that it wasn’t what I though it would be. I think it’s a great thing that Community Hospital has that available for Dr. Marcus to use.”

“Robotics is a wonderful option, It’s just amazing. It’s a great thing for women. It’s so much less traumatic and invasive. It is a phenomenal thing for Community Hospital to use for hysterectomy,” added Barnes, who was permitted to drive a week after the surgery.

Dr. Marcus underwent extensive preparation in order to become certified as a robotic surgeon, including comprehensive hands-on training at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.

Doctors at Community Hospital are also planning to use the da Vinci Surgical System for another gynecological procedure, myomectomy, the removal of fibroids and intricate laparoscopic procedures involving the bowel, colon and stomach.

For more information on Community Healthcare System surgeons who offer the new da Vinci Surgical System, call 219-836-3477 or toll-free 1-866-836-3477 or visit