Robotic surgery — and Gretzky — come to TEGH

Hockey’s “The Great One“ is known for putting a lot of pucks into a lot of nets with his amazing pair of hands. But could he use those same hands to perform surgery?

Wayne Gretzky was at Toronto East General Hospital on Oct. 19 to attend the unveiling of the da Vinci Surgical System. It’s a robotic apparatus that will be used to treat patients with prostate cancer by allowing surgeons to remotely perform minimally invasive procedures. Doctors sit at a console that controls four surgical ports that performs the delicate interior work.

There are currently 15 of the machines in Canada — but TEGH is the first community hospital in the entire country to own one.

Dr. Rajiv Singal is a urologist at TEGH. He said the surgical robot will change people’s views of what a surgeon does.

“In the same way that Wayne Gretzky changed the paradigm in terms of what we thought of hockey players and what records could not be broken, there’s also been a revolution in surgery,” Dr. Singal said.

Another special feature of the system is that it allows surgeons to see in both high definition and three dimensions.

“It’s something that’s going to take some time for us to get our program fully implemented,” Dr. Singal said. “We hope that it will improve our care, minimize blood loss and also minimize recovery times for our patients.”

Rob Devitt, CEO of Toronto East General Hospital, was also at the Oct. 19 event to introduce the machine.

“As a hockey player wannabe, one of the things that make teams great is in fact team work,” Devitt said, “and what we’re seeing here in Toronto for probably the first time are two hospitals teaming and actually sharing donations in order to acquire and share a piece of technology. And that’s where the system has to go.”

Together with Sunnybrook Health Science Centre, TEGH hopes that it will become the training ground for future generations of robotic surgeons.

The hospital has raised $4 million of the $5 million needed to pay for the system. TEGH’s hope is that Gretzky’s appearance will encourage people to donate in order for the hospital to reach its goal.