Monday Medical: Try out a surgeon’s high-tech tool — the robot |

Monday Medical: Try out a surgeon’s high-tech tool — the robot

If you go:

What: Robotic Showdown

Where: Yampa Joe's at Yampa Valley Medical Center, 1024 Central Park Drive

When: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 27

Don't miss your chance to play on a robotic surgery system. Challenge an opponent at or just show up at the event. Spectators welcome.

— It might be a co-worker, a best friend or even your own mom. Whoever you choose, you now have the chance to meet him or her in what just might be the ultimate duel.

The game? Mini Jenga.

The tool? A state-of-the-art robotic surgical system.

This Thursday, the community is invited to try out an actual da Vinci Surgical System. Yampa Valley Medical Center’s Robotic Showdown promises a unique, behind-the-scenes opportunity to play with cutting-edge technology.

The robotic system — a similar model to the one used in robotic surgeries at Yampa Valley Medical Center — is large, with four robotic arms, each equipped with tiny wristed instruments. A surgeon moves the robotic arms with two hand controls, watching the work through a console with a magnified, 3D high-definition image.

Challengers may be surprised at how quickly they get the hang of the movements. Each hand control has straps connecting to the thumb and middle finger, so as the wrists and fingers move, the robotic arm moves in the same way.

Challengers will operate the robotic system as they look through the consoles at a magnified image of the miniature Jenga game, taking turns moving one piece at a time. The winner of each challenge will receive a voucher for a free meal at YVMC’s Eatery.

The showdown will take place near YVMC’s coffee shop, Yampa Joe’s. There’s plenty of room for observers, and light refreshments will be served. Everyone is invited, including children; even preschoolers can learn how to operate the robotic arms.

The da Vinci Si at YVMC was purchased a little more than a year ago with the help of an anonymous gift to the Healthcare Foundation. YVMC is currently the only hospital in Northwest Colorado that has a robotic surgery system.

The da Vinci Si is used in general, urological and gynecological surgeries at YVMC. A sampling of the current procedures performed include cholecystectomy (gallbladder removal), prostatectomy and hysterectomy.

Surgeons decide whether the daVinci Si is the best tool to use depending on the patient’s individual situation. While “robot” may imply a high level of automation, the surgeon is in full control of every movement the arms make, and automatic safety checks ensure the tool does exactly what the surgeon directs.

Robotic surgeries are a type of minimally invasive surgery. In comparison to “open” or “traditional” surgeries, where larger incisions are made, robotic surgery may offer a patient less blood loss, less need for narcotic pain medicine and a faster recovery time in comparison to open surgeries.

All surgeries carry risks and benefits. Every patient’s condition is different, and a discussion with your doctor can help decide the best course of treatment.

Don’t miss your chance to experience an incredible technology firsthand. Even if you lose, you’re guaranteed to “knock your blocks off.”

Susan Cunningham writes for Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at

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