Biomedical Innovation
By Kasey Meredith

The overarching goal of health care and hospitals is to get patients healed as soon as possible. Time is a devious element in all wings of the hospital. But with biomedical technological advancements, that light at the end of the tunnel is appearing brighter and brighter.

Bakersfield is a hotbed of biomedical technology and innovative health care equipment. You don’t have to go to Los Angeles to get the speedy recovery and treatment. And that seemingly minuscule assumption can alter a patient’s recovery.

And when it comes to treating a patient – it’s the little things. Even the smallest factors, like a surgeon’s wrist movement, incision size or being able to move patients more frequently, can essentially lead to life-or-death moments.

But what if you needed an intense surgery and didn’t know this technology was available? Virtually, you’re subjected to more trauma and a worse recovery process than one with robotic surgery.

Doctors have new tools like the Da Vinci Xi that allows for more precise surgery and mobility systems that help move patients, both severely reduce the amount of trauma in a patient.

The Da Vinci Xi, a surgical robot, isn’t a robot practicing surgery. That technology is still in the “Jetsons” age. It operates with a doctor, like Dr. Lorenc Malellari, who has received years of training with the robot, as its pilot.

“It reduces hernias, an increase in pain, additional surgeries and leads to a sooner outpatientcy,” Malellari said.

Malellari controls the robot’s phalanges, outfitted with tiny scalpels, cameras providing a literal inside look and a multitude of other instruments, using finger loops that synchronize movement. He’s sitting down and has stereoscopic vision, whereas laparoscopic vision is looking at what’s going on inside the body on a TV screen.

Through the use of stereoscopic vision, Malellari is able to magnify the image up to 10 times.

“Robotic surgery is like an IMAX experience, where laparoscopic is like watching a movie on screen,” Malellari said.

The Da Vinci Xi’s wrists can even rotate 540 degrees, where humans’ wrists can only rotate 270 degrees, which reduces the amount of time the surgeon is performing. Malellari even likens laparoscopic surgery to using chopsticks: the movement is rigid, can’t turn or bend and only operates at the top.

“Robotic instruments are much smaller and have more degrees of freedom with your wrist. It seems trivial, but those matters can make or break the case,” Malellari said.

Malellari said recently a patient of his had their rectum removed due to their severity of Crohn’s disease and because of the Da Vinci Xi they were walking around the hospital room after the anesthesia wore off.

Like reducing the incision size, increasing mobility is another way that hospitals can increase patient healing by implementing new technology.

“Mobility is key to get patients out of the hospital,” said Dr. Travis Eckard. Eckard is a physical therapist at Kern Medical and one of the pioneers of the Up Sooner, Safer project that premiered early December 2017.

Up Sooner, Safer is Kern Medical’s answer to that haunting problem of time. A series of medical lifting devices implemented throughout the hospital, the devices help the individual handling the equipment and the patient.

“It helps the healing process and ultimately their quality of life,” Eckard said. “It helps the nurses too, gives them the strength to lift bodies.”

More movement leads to less of a chance of someone falling or contracting infections. It also helps the patients’ quality of life and healing process all together. All systems are affected by not moving – cardiopulmonary and skin, for instance.

“Sitting is the new smoking,” Eckard said.

These mobility contraptions come in a variety of shapes: a slinglike device used to help patients sit up and a walkerlike device used to help patients stand up and move to another area, to name a couple.

Eckard said the main goal is to make the program more robust and reach every corner of the hospital, making the use of mobility devices standard.

Whether it’s on the operating table, or in the recovery room, innovations in the medical field is crucial to getting patients in an out quicker and with less trauma – and Bakersfield is at the forefront. 

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