Month: May 2015

Robotic Surgery: The Future is Here

robotic surgery imageUnlike industrial robots, surgical robots are not autonomous; they are actually a collection of wristed “servant” tools called manipulators, which receive digital instructions from an interfaced computer. The  surgeon, who is seated at an ergonomically designed video console with a three-dimensional display, initiates the digital instructions by controlling sophisticated hand grips — essentially, joysticks with seven degrees of freedom. The manipulators inside the patient’s body duplicate the surgeon’s hand movements at the console, and software filters out even physiologic hand tremors.

Unaccommodating places are what robot-assisted surgery is all about. The human surgeon is not optimized for tiny spaces. The robot makes it much easier to spare nerves and maneuver through the small, sometimes rigid spaces of the human body.

In addition to small or narrow places in the human body, remote places in the world are often mentioned by those invoking the promise of robotic surgery. Some observers have called “Operation Lindbergh,” the first transatlantic cholecystectomy, nothing more than theater: a telesurgeon in New York robotically removed a gallbladder from a patient in Strasbourg, France — without complications.

Many doctors believe telesurgery might be a good way to distribute health care in the Third World, and NASA hasn’t forgotten about its potential for the proposed manned missions to the Moon and to Mars. Other visionaries in this field are seeing the future possibilities for robots in the medical realm. Just like so many other things in today’s technological world, surgery is going digital.

If you are considering surgery, schedule a consultation with Dr. Johnson. Find out if you might be a candidate for minimally invasive, robotic surgery.

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The FDA Reviews Homeopathy Policies and Guidelines

Homeopathy image (1)At public meetings in April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began evaluating whether current procedures to ensure the safety of homeopathic products are too lax and whether the FDA should start regulating homeopathic remedies more closely. Homeopathy is an area of complementary and alternative medicine that has been highly controversial and heatedly debated because a number of its key concepts do not follow the laws of science.

  • It is debated how something that causes illness might also cure it.
  • It has been questioned whether a remedy with a very tiny amount (perhaps not even one molecule) of active ingredient could have a biological effect, beneficial or otherwise.

Currently the FDA regulates homeopathic remedies only in the sense that remedies are required to meet certain legal standards for strength, quality, purity, and packaging. The FDA requires that all homeopathic remedies list the indications for their use on the label. The FDA also requires the label to list ingredients, dilutions, and instructions for safe use.

The FDA has learned of a few reports of illness associated with the use of homeopathic remedies. However, these reports were reviewed, and it was decided that the remedies were not likely to be the cause due to the high dilutions.

As with all medicinal products, a person taking a homeopathic remedy is best advised to:

  • Contact his/her health care provider if his symptoms continue unimproved for more than 5 days.
  • Keep the remedy out of the reach of children.
  • Consult a health care provider before using the product if the user is a woman who is pregnant or nursing a baby.

The results of individual, controlled clinical trials of homeopathy have been contradictory. In some trials, homeopathy appeared to be no more helpful than a placebo; in other studies, some benefits were seen that the researchers believed were greater than one would expect from a placebo.

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Aspirin May Help Ward off Gastric Cancers

Aspirin spilling from bottle

Aspirin spilling from bottle

A new study suggests that taking aspirin regularly over several years may help prevent gastrointestinal cancers. The results of the study were presented recently at an American Association for Cancer Research meeting in Philadelphia.

Although results of the study showed a 20% lower risk of cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, especially in the colon and rectum, among people taking aspirin, the lead researcher, Yin Cao, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, doesn’t think people should start taking aspirin to prevent cancer until more research is done. In addition, patients and their doctors need to consider the potential risks of taking aspirin, including stomach bleeding. Still, the researcher indicated that the data suggest that along with the benefits of aspirin in the prevention of heart attacks and strokes, long-term regular aspirin use may have even more significant health benefits than known before.

The benefit of aspirin in reducing overall cancer risk appeared to depend on how much one took. The more aspirin taken, the more the risk was reduced. Amounts ranged from less than one aspirin a week to 15 or more, the researchers said. Getting the biggest benefit from aspirin required taking it for at least 16 years. The benefit was no longer seen within four years of stopping it, the researchers found. According to the study authors, the association of aspirin with reduced cancer risk was the same for women and men regardless of race, history of diabetes, family history of cancer, weight, smoking, regular use of other painkillers, or taking multivitamins.

Although aspirin is recommended for most people who have had a heart attack and has some benefits for cancer risk as well, at this point the American Cancer Society does not recommend that people use aspirin specifically to prevent cancer because it is not clear that the benefits with respect to cancer outweigh the risks. While not common, aspirin can cause serious, even occasionally fatal, stomach bleeding, even at low doses.

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Plan for Pain Before Surgery

Plan for Pain Before SurgeryWhen your doctor says you need surgery many scary things come to mind. Is my condition very serious? Will this procedure cure what’s wrong? Then, there is the prospect of post-surgery pain. How badly is this going to hurt?

It’s inevitable that some pain will come with most types of surgery. The cutting of the skin stimulates nerve fibers to signal pain. As the body begins to heal, pain should decrease and eventually stop. The amount of time pain lasts after surgery can depend on several factors such as:

  • A person’s general health
  • The presence of coexisting medical problems
  • Cigarette smoking

The good news is that there are many highly effective medications to keep post-surgical pain under control. In addition to the benefit of greater comfort, experts say well-controlled pain can speed recovery and prevent long-term problems.

In order to make sure you’re getting the best possible treatment for your post-surgical pain, experts advise taking an active role and keeping the channels of communication open between you and your doctor — starting before your operation. Talk with your surgeon and anesthesiologist about how your pain will be managed after surgery during pre-surgery testing, not after the procedure has occurred.

Some important items to discuss with your doctor before making your way to the hospital:

  • Tell them about everything you’re taking
  • Ask how much pain to expect and how long will it last

On rare occasions, pain may remain, though the cause of pain cannot be identified. This condition can become long-term pain.

Pain after surgery can be a sign of surgical complications such as the following:

  • Infection
  • A break in the wound
  • A collection of blood or other body fluid below the skin (a hematoma)
  • Vomiting or a change in your bowel habits after abdominal surgery
  • Formation of fistulas (abnormal passages between body structures
  • Lung complications
  • Chest pain
  • Bleeding
  • Chronic conditions

Contact Dr. Johnson for any General Surgery needs. He and his experienced team will work with you to design a safe and effective pain management plan for you.

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