St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, which features one of the nation's most comprehensive robotic surgery programs, has earned special recognition as the first Epicenter for Robotic Colorectal Surgery in West Central Florida.

The designation was offered by Intuitive Surgical, maker of the da Vinci Robotic Surgical System. To become an Epicenter, the program must include a host surgeon who has completed 100 cases; teachable, reproducible and effective surgical techniques; and willingness to work toward being the most highly rated Epicenter in the nation.

St. Joseph's Hospital also is one of the first in the country to utilize the robotic stapler during surgery.  This innovative tool helps surgeons access parts of the anatomy that are difficult to reach.

When St. Joseph's Hospital launched its robotic surgery program in 2002, it was the first in the Southeast to offer this robotic technology. Today, the Advanced Center for Robotic Surgery at St. Joseph's Hospitals includes more than two dozen surgeons who together offer more than 40 robotic procedures including general, gynecological, gynecologic oncology, urological, pediatric urological surgeries, and – of course – colorectal surgery.
César Santiago, MD, who is board certified in general and colon and rectal surgery, serves as the Center's Medical Director. He is dedicated to building the entire Robotic Surgery Center and was instrumental in achieving Colorectal Epicenter status.
"For the past two years, surgical teams from across the country have observed our robotic colorectal cases. We have a very experienced, knowledgeable team that works extremely well together. This designation formalizes our efforts to share what we have learned with colleagues everywhere, helping other surgeons in hopes of healing patients who don't yet have this level of care in their community."

Only a small percent of surgeons are trained in the latest colorectal robotic techniques, but Dr. Santiago said these advancements are important to him because they help his patients feel better, faster. Visiting surgeons get a first-hand look at how Dr. Santiago utilizes robotic technology to provide the best possible outcomes for his patients. Not long ago, colon and rectal surgery involved very invasive, open procedures to access vital structures located in the confines of the pelvis. 
Robotic surgery allows the surgeon to access hard-to-reach areas and manipulate instruments in small spaces with great precision and less movement of healthy tissue. Santiago said other advantages of robotic surgery can include less blood loss, quicker return to bowel function, quicker return to normal diet, shorter hospital stay, less pain and scarring, and a quicker return to normal activities.

As program coordinator for the Advanced Center for Robotic Surgery at St. Joseph's Hospitals, Lisa Lockhart, RN, CRNFA, said the entire organization is committed to the technology and eager to learn and offer new robotic procedures as they become available.

"There are some procedures for which robotic surgery has already become the standard of care," Lockhart said. "If you consider what we had to do for open cases, then compare it to laparoscopy and then how we do it robotically, you see why we would never go back – especially on a lot of critical and complex cases."