Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Page 7



Facing a Brave New Medical World




As the year approaches its conclusion, I look backward, medically, so to speak. There are three events that I can comment on: First (and very personal), I received a much stronger battery for my pacemaker. This required an overnight hospital stay, but all is well with that.

Number two: I have been taking Ginkgo biloba for many years as a participant in a national study conducted by the University of Pittsburgh. That study finally came to an end this year.

The headline on that particular study made national news: “Ginkgo No Shield Against Alzheimer’s.” Findings suggested that taking the herb long-term didn’t prevent or curb dementia.

After the six-year study, participants were told that 523 of the 3100 seniors in the study developed dementia, and 92 percent of those were classified as those with possible or probable Alzheimer’s disease. This result might well slow down the almost $250 million worth of Ginkgo sales.

The third medical event which really impressed me was in the November/ December issue of the University of Chicago magazine. There was an article entitled “Hands-Off Surgery.” It described the world of the modern surgeon, sitting at a curved console wearing scrubs and a surgical mask.

The doctor leaned forward, grasped the ergonomic controls with his hands and pushed pedals with his feet, all triggering four metal robotic arms positioned over a man lying a full eight feet away. The robot’s arm held extremely small surgical probes that were then robotically inserted into a 58-year-old, 241-pound patient suffering from a clogged coronary artery.

The operation did not result in cutting into the patient’s chest; instead the robot made tiny holes for the placement of probes into the chest. It all added up to an operation with fewer complications, less pain, less scarring and only a week of recovery time. The only medicine required to enhance that recovery was aspirin.

The magazine says that the University of Chicago has the most comprehensive minimal invasive cardiac program in the world. The robot at the heart of this program cost $1.6 million, and it can be used to treat the prostate, gynecological problems, conduct transplant surgery, as well as vascular and other coronary surgeries, all with minimally invasive approaches.

As an emerging technology, the use of the robot has become fairly routine. In 2007, the University of Chicago performed 524 cardiac surgeries utilizing the robot. This year, the number of such surgeries will be even larger.

Robotic surgery is part of a new evolving technological world, not only in medicine, but in other aspects of life. At my age, it is the medical use of technology that really catches my eye. We older people will have to keep reinventing ourselves and be willing to jump into this new medical world!


— Capitol News Service