Rural hospital adds surgical robot to improve patient care

Posted at 10:57 PM, Jun 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-02 23:57:46-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Ascension St. Thomas River Park in McMinnville is trying to help its aging population by adding a robot that assists in knee replacement surgeries.

The ROSA (Robotic Surgical Assistant) is an image robot designed to help an orthopedic surgeon see the anatomy of a patient's knee during surgery.

The rural hospital just got the more than $500,000 machine. They've already performed four knee surgeries with it. One of those surgeries was on David Zahn, who lives about a mile from the hospital.

"Well, the closer the surgery got, the more relief I had because I knew it was going to be better," said Zahn. "After the surgery, I was amazed how well it was."

Zahn said he first started feeling knee pain about 10 years ago. As the years passed, and it became progressively worse, eventually he realized he had to do something.

That something was a knee replacement exactly a week ago.

"I was expecting to be in a lot more pain and not near as mobile. It's a big relief."

He's already able to walk again.

Dr. Jeff Peterson's, an orthopedic surgeon, performed the surgery. Peterson has worked at the hospital for 10 years.

While he's performed many knee replacements, the new robot makes sometimes difficult surgeries much easier to complete.

It's a robot that shows an image of the inside of a patient actively to the surgeon to aid in replacements.

"We're hoping that we could keep folks here that would've had to leave this region to keep them here at a good facility with good technology and the outcomes so far have been outstanding," said Peterson.

This isn't brand new technology. In fact, it's more common in larger hospitals. That's the key here. Smaller hospitals are trying to be innovative in order to compete in rural areas.

"What a blessing it is to have this here in this smaller hospital."

Peterson requested the hospital made the purchase. It's located in an area where such robotics aren't accessible in under an hour's drive.

The technology not only means better outcomes for patients, it means they can get the care they need closer to home.

John says he feels lucky to live just a mile from the hospital, but others aren't so lucky.

"Our closest large facilities are Murfreesboro, Cookeville and Chattanooga," said the hospital's CEO, Dale Humphrey.

He said the hospital tries to think of new ways so patients won't have to travel so far for care. In the future that could mean better cardiac imaging at the hospital as well.