Torrance Memorial Surgeons Using Robotic Technology to Revolutionize Cancer Care
Technology is revolutionizing cancer care in many ways, but some of the
most exciting developments of the last decade have occurred in the field
of robotic oncologic surgery — and the surgeons at Torrance Memorial
are at the forefront.
For more than 10 years, Torrance Memorial’s surgeons have been using
the latest robotic technology — combined with innovative techniques
and approaches — to advance the field of minimally invasive cancer
surgery, improve patient outcomes, and preserve quality of life.
A History of Excellence in Robotic Surgery
Torrance Memorial was among the first hospitals in Los Angeles County —
including community and academic medical centers — to start a robotic
surgery program. When the program first started, surgeons performed robotic
surgical procedures to treat prostate and gynecologic cancers, including
endometrial, cervical, and ovarian cancers.
“Torrance Memorial was really on top of getting the technology and
starting the robotic surgery program,” said Ramin Mirhashemi, MD,
FACOG, who specializes in robotic surgery. “Since the robotic surgery
program began, it has grown significantly. Our robotic surgery specialists
now treat gynecologic, colorectal, thoracic, endocrine, and urologic cancers,
as well as a full range of noncancerous conditions.”
But over the years, the robotic surgeons at Torrance Memorial have done
more than grow the program; they’ve also refined their skills, surgical
approaches and techniques to provide the best treatment for patients.
As one example of this commitment to excellence, Dr. Mirhashemi was recently
named Master Surgeon in Robotic Surgery by the Surgical Review Corporation,
a healthcare accreditation organization.
And, members of the urology robotic surgery team at Torrance Memorial —
which includes Timothy Lesser, MD, Garrett Matsunaga, MD, and Lawrence
Flechner, MD, PhD — have improved patient care by using an innovative
robotic approach to treat tumors on the back of the kidney while keeping
part of the kidney intact.
“Our robotic urologic surgery team is continually working to improve
the way we use the technology,” said Dr. Lesser. “We are among
only a few groups that perform robotic retroperitoneal partial nephrectomies
to treat tumors on the back of the kidney. We can actually use the robot
behind the kidney to minimize trauma to the body, spare as much healthy
tissue as possible, and preserve kidney function.”
Reducing Complications, Improving Outcomes
As recently as 10 years ago, many radical surgical procedures to treat
cancer were performed through a large, open incision. These open procedures
usually required a long hospital stay followed by a lengthy recovery at
home — and a higher risk of complications, including bleeding and
Today, surgeons at Torrance Memorial use a robotic surgical system to perform
the same radical procedures through several small incisions instead of
one large open incision. The robotic surgical system includes three robotic
arms that hold small surgical instruments and one robotic arm that holds
a small camera, as well as a console that includes a video screen and
controls that operate the robotic arms.
During robotic surgery, the surgeon sits at the console and uses the controls
to operate the robotic surgical system. The surgeon inserts the surgical
instruments and camera into the small incisions. Using the image of the
surgical area that is transmitted from the camera to the screen on the
console, the surgeon guides the surgical instruments to perform the procedure.
Because there is no large incision and minimal trauma to the body, the
risk of complications from robotic surgery is far lower. In fact, many
patients are able to leave the hospital within 24 hours of their procedure
and can return to their normal activities in two weeks.
“Our patients can resume their normal activities more quickly with
an equal or better oncologic outcome when compared to open surgery,”
said Dr. Lesser.
Precision and Control
Robotic technology also provides surgeons with increased precision and
control, allowing them to remove cancerous tissue and spare healthy tissue
while minimizing damage to surrounding areas of the body. This added precision
and control also allows surgeons to perform radical surgeries with the
delicacy required to maintain quality of life.
“Women who have robotic surgery to treat gynecological cancer have
a lower risk of problems that could affect their urinary tract and bowels
when compared to women who have traditional open surgery,” said
The robotic urologic surgeons at Torrance Memorial also use this additional
precision to improve outcomes after prostate cancer surgery.
"We perform nerve grafts that can help men maintain their erectile
function after prostate cancer surgery," said Dr. Lesser. "We
also use techniques to suspend the urethra, which can help to reduce urinary
incontinence after robotic prostate cancer treatment."
The Future of Robotic Surgery
At Torrance Memorial, the future of cancer treatment using robotic surgery
is promising. As the robotic oncologic surgery program continues to grow,
Torrance Memorial hopes to purchase additional robotic surgical systems,
so more patients can have access to life-saving procedures to treat cancer.
“Even 10 years ago, some of things we are doing with robotic surgical
technology today seemed unbelievable,” said Dr. Mirhashemi. “Robotic
surgery allows surgeons to change the outcome of these radical procedures
to treat cancer, which makes a huge difference for patients.”