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Robo Doc
Tulane University Hospital & Clinic last week unveiled its newest surgery tool -- robotics -- making the medical center the first in the state to have a robotic surgery system.

By using the assistance of robotics in the da Vinci Surgical System, surgeons can perform less invasive procedures resulting in smaller incisions, less pain, shorter recovery periods and better outcomes. The cutting-edge system employs electro-mechanically enhanced instruments to operate on patients through tiny ports. The movements of the instruments are controlled by a physician at a console a few feet away from the patient, and the system provides the doctor with a three-dimensional image of the surgery area. The robotic hands are located on a cart placed beside the patient.

The da Vinci System provides benefits over laparoscopy, which uses a small video camera to provide surgeons with two-dimensional images, because it provides a more complete view of the surgical area as well as better translation of a surgeon's movements into the robotic hands' movements. Both methods allow smaller incisions than conventional surgery, which means shorter recovery times, less trauma to tissues surrounding the surgery site and reduced risk of infection. In addition, the da Vinci System's robotics can mimic almost all of a surgeon's natural wrist movements, which allows use of the technique in complex surgeries.

"Using computer-enhanced robotics makes the surgeon's movements steadier, allows superb precision, and facilitates procedures which would not be possible using conventional laparoscopic equipment," says Dr. Daniel Scott, director of the Tulane Center for Minimally Invasive Surgery. "The da Vinci robotic system is truly an advanced system and will markedly enhance our abilities as surgeons to perform complex operations using minimally invasive techniques."

Tulane surgeons plan to use the system for urological, advanced laparoscopy, general surgery and transplants.

For the Babies
Indulge yourself in gourmet food, lively dancing and opportunities to buy exciting items at auction prices -- all to benefit infant health programs -- at the March of Dimes Gourmet Gala at 6 p.m. Nov. 24 at the Hotel Inter Continental.

The gala, sponsored by the Southeast Louisiana and Greater New Orleans Division of the March of Dimes, features cuisine prepared by some of New Orleans' best chefs, dance music by Johnny Angel and the Swingin' Demons, a silent auction and a live auction of travel and entertainment packages.

Ticket prices start at $125 per person and may be purchased by calling 522-0865. Proceeds will be used for the organization's community and advocacy programs, education and research aimed at preventing birth defects.

A New Option

A local doctor is using a new, minimally invasive technique to give the one in five women who suffer excessive menstrual bleeding an alternative to hysterectomy, all in an outpatient setting.

Dr. Karim Toursarkissian of K.T. Women's Care in Gretna and Metairie performed the procedure, called an endometrial ablation, at the Doctor's Same Day Surgery Center in Marrero a couple of weeks ago, marking its first use in this area.

Toursarkissian performs the procedure using the Hydro ThermAblator, which employs a heated saline solution to cauterize the endometrial lining of the uterus, thus either reducing the menstrual flow or eliminating it altogether. It also provides the physician with a clear view of the uterine cavity while performing the procedure.

The doctor says the procedure offers women with excessive menstrual bleeding a safe alternative to surgery, effective results and minimal recovery time, plus it can be performed on an outpatient basis.

Suicide Prevention
Winter holidays are a great time of joy for many, but for others it can bring on intense depression, blues and despair. With rates of suicide increasing (it spiked by 109 percent between 1980 and 1997) across age ranges from teenagers to older Americans, the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) believes discussing suicide can prevent it.

In support of that theory, the organization is offering a free new booklet, Suicide Prevention and Mood Disorders, to help people wrestling with suicidal thoughts and the family and friends who love them work through them safely. DBSA says it is offering the booklet free of charge because statistics show that two-thirds of the 30,000 Americans who commit suicide each year suffer from some type of depression or bipolar disorder. The group also offers a patient-run support group for depression and bipolar disorder patients.

To obtain a copy of the booklet, call 842-5425 or read it online at

Backing the Hungry
Mix Family Chiropractic Clinic (7942 Hwy. 23, Belle Chasse, 393-8675) is offering free spinal screenings and chiropractic and health information to anyone who donates canned food as part of Lend a Hand for the Hungry at the Belle Chasse Clinic from noon until 4 p.m. Nov. 23.

The drive was scheduled to provide food for the hungry for the Thanksgiving holidays and beyond. No reservations are necessary to receive the free screenings, but you can contact 393-8675 for more information. All proceeds will benefit Second Harvesters food bank.

Gentle Dentistry
The phrase "pain-free dentistry" used to be considered an oxymoron, but advances in technology and anesthesia and its delivery have cut down the dread experienced by older generations of Americans.

Dr. Art Scott (Doctor's Row, 3939 Houma Blvd., Metairie, 888-1414, says his dental office has taken the science a step further, becoming the first dentist in the area to use the Waterlase Hydrokinetic YSGS dental laser to perform procedures such as filling teeth without shots, numbing or drilling.

Scott, who has practiced dentistry for 25 years, says he believes the dental laser could change the way patients perceive dentistry because in many patients -- up to 90 percent of those eligible for the laser procedure -- it eliminates the need for anesthesia. The laser can be used for preparing teeth for fillings, assisting in gum treatments and more.

Just Rewards
Everyone needs a little positive feedback sometimes, and at the new X-Trainers personal fitness training studio in the Riverbend (575 S. Carrollton Ave., 282-0046;, good behaviors are rewarded with free products and services.

Owner Leilani Heno, who opened the studio at the corner of St. Charles and Carrollton Avenues a month ago, attributes part of her company's success to rewarding clients when possible. At the end of each month, training clients are given rewards such as massages, gift certificates and cash for attending sessions and reaching personal health goals.

Under the X-Trainers program, customers work with personal trainers at the private facility between two and five days a week. Services include fitness testing, nutritional counseling and other activities.

Health Options
The Louisiana Department of Insurance's Senior Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP) is holding presentations to give members of Ochsner Health Plan's Total Health 65 program, which won't be offered in St. Tammany and Washington parishes after Dec. 31, an idea of their options for health care.

Residents affected by the change in availability can attend a free presentation from 10 a.m. to noon on Dec. 11, at the Greater Covington Center (317 N. Jefferson St., Covington, (985) 898-4043). SHIIP representatives will explain legal rights and protections for former Total Health 65 members, who have guaranteed access to Medicare Supplemental Insurance.

SHIIP, a program of the Louisiana Department of Insurance, provides free information about senior health insurance products, including Medicare, Medigap, Medicare HMOs and more.

click to enlarge A new robotic surgery system unveiled at Tulane University Hospital and Clinic promises better results with less trauma.
  • A new robotic surgery system unveiled at Tulane University Hospital and Clinic promises better results with less trauma.


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