SIOUX FALLS, SD -
Robots are taking over the operating room.
This week Sanford Heart Hospital began using robots to help place stents and balloons in patients with blocked arteries.
Steve Anderson says he's not nervous at all as he waits to be the first patient at Sanford to have a stent placed in a heart artery using a robot.
"I come from a mechanical background in where I work and I understand the precision," Anderson said.
Anderson, who suffers from several blocked arteries, worked at a car manufacturing plant for 35 years.
"I feel more relaxed probably because it makes more sense to me to do it this way," Anderson said.
During the procedure, Dr. Tom Stys will use a combination of joysticks and buttons to maneuver a robot, rather than using his own hands, to help place the stent.
"I believe bringing robotic angioplasty to the cath. lab is perhaps the biggest technological advancement over the last ten or 20 years," Stys said.
Stys says the robot allows him to be more accurate and could save money.
"A conventional angioplasty procedure may require two instead of one stent because of a visual misjudgment when you think the stent you should deploy is 15 millimeters long, but you actually after the deployment realize there's a few millimeters of the lesion left," Stys said.
Right now Sanford only has the robots in Sioux Falls and Aberdeen, but they hope in the future they'll be able to help out people in more rural areas.
"Being able to perhaps, in the future, develop a system where I would be able to steer a robot from Sioux Falls Sanford Heart on a patient who presents with a heart attack 200, 300 miles away," Dr. Stys said.
While that is just a dream right now, Anderson says he's facing the reality that he needs to improve his health to avoid seeing the robots again.
"Hopefully exercise and lose some weight," Anderson said.
Sanford received almost $2.5 million from The Helmsley Charitable Trust to help pay for two robots.
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