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Easton Hospital Offerings Include Robotics-Assisted Surgery, Comprehensive Spine Management

By Colin McEvoy on March 2, 2015

Easton Hospital

Easton Hospital

When Sue Long went in to Easton Hospital to have an ovarian cyst removed, she gave the medical staff permission to move to open surgery if necessary. Once the procedure began, it was discovered the cyst was actually an endometrioma, meaning the lining of the uterus had grown into the ovary, which was further complicated by the cyst’s close proximity to an artery.

The uterus had to be removed altogether. But rather than move to open surgery – which could result in a hospital stay of weeks or months – the staff decided to stick to the procedure they started with: minimally invasive robotic surgery through a single incision in the belly button, resulting in no more than a one-inch scar.

Not only was the operation successful without requiring open surgery, but Long was eating and walking around within a few hours, and was able to return home that night.

“I never thought I’d be able to go home the same day,” Long said. “An outpatient hysterectomy…I just couldn’t believe it. (And) if you look in my belly button, you can’t even see the scar.”

This article is part of an ongoing series about the superior health care offered in the Lehigh Valley. See below for information about the other stories:

PART 1: St. Luke’s University Health Network
• PART 2: Lehigh Valley Health Network
PART 3: Sacred Heart Hospital
PART 4: Easton Hospital
• PART 5: Coordinated Health

Easton Hospital’s state-of-the-art surgical robot system gives the surgeon precise control and a clear visual advantage, providing an alternative to traditional open surgery and conventional laparoscopy. It is available to patients facing bariatric, colorectal, gynecological, urological and other general surgeries.

In addition to providing outpatient single-site hysterectomy, Easton Hospital was the first in the Lehigh Valley to provide single-site, robotic-assisted gallbladder removal. Both procedures typically involve open surgery, but the minimally-invasive robotic system can result in less pain, quicker recovery times, less blood loss and no noticeable scar.

”We work to lead the way, so our physicians can use and our patients can benefit from the latest technology,” says John Zidansek, CEO at Easton Hospital.

Comprehensive Spine Management

The robotic system is just one of several ways Easton Hospital is making treatment easy and comfortable for its patients. Another example is through its Comprehensive Spine Management program, which assists patients with acute spine, back and neck problems through a combination of targeted physical therapy, advanced pain management and, only as a last resort, minimally-invasive surgery.

An image of Easton Hospital's robotic surgery equipment.

An image of Easton Hospital’s robotic surgery equipment.

Since the program launched last year, more than 450 patients have been treated and only four have required surgery, according to Amy Huber, spine center navigator. Most of the rest were treated through physical therapy or pain management, allowing them to get back to their lives quickly and with as little inconvenience as possible.

“Patients have been coming in with back pain and have been surprised how much they can treat their pain just through just simple exercises,” Huber said. “Sometimes people are nervous about seeking treatment because they want to avoid surgery, but we exhaust absolutely all nonsurgical methods before it comes to that.”

With a multidisciplinary team of spine adjustments, therapy exercises and injections all under one roof, the program is focused on healing, not simply masking the pain. Not all physical therapy is equal, so Easton Hospital’s therapists perform a mechanical diagnosis to pinpoint the exact cause of the pain, and pain management experts create customized plans to lessen that pain and assist with recovery. Easton Hospital also offers dedicated coordinators to help navigate a patient through treatment options and appointments, providing them a single point-of-contract that is rare in such programs.

Award-Winning Cardiac Team

Easton Hospital also has a celebrated cardiac team that received a platinum performance award from the American College of Cardiology and a silver award from the American Heart Association in 2014. Easton Hospital is also accredited as a Chest Pain Center by the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care.

Its door-to-balloon time – the measurement of time it takes from when a patient calls 911 until a blocked artery is cleared – is consistently below 60 minutes, according to Easton Hospital spokesman Stephen Wilson. Last year, a patient had a heart attack during a blizzard, but received treatment with a balloon time of 34 minutes, Wilson said.

In another case, a woman named Bessie Moustakas had a heart attack and had to be placed into a medically-induced coma, with her left coronary artery 100 percent blocked and her right coronary artery 90 percent blocked. Her heart began to fail and she developed cardiogenic shock, leaving her with a 20 percent chance of survival.

Moustakas was placed on a ventilator and a balloon pump to support her heart, but the surgeon felt something else was wrong. His instinct was correct: an echocardiogram revealed her mitral valve ruptured and she needed open heart surgery. The procedure was performed by Dr. Richard Angelico, a world-class cardiothoracic surgeon. Moustakas survived, and is now well known at Easton Hospital’s cardiac rehabilitation center for bringing lemon bars and other treats.

“They people here are so positive and supportive,” Moustakas said. “They feel just like family.”

Residency Programs

Easton Hospital also has strong educational offerings, with Drexel University-affiliated residency programs in internal medicine and surgery. Residents in the internal medicine program rotate to Easton, and also have the opportunity to rotate to Hanemann University Hospital in Philadelphia for elective rotations.

Third- and fourth-year medical students rotate from Drexel to Easton for the surgical residency program, which was established in 1950 and allows residents to operate on and care for patients who have undergone various surgical procedures. Wilson said residents have been so happy with the program that many of them have returned and become surgeons at Easton Hospital.

”We are proud of our history of education,” Wilson said. “Since 1945 when New York University sent residents here, we have served as a community hospital and a teaching hospital. Between physician training and our School of Nursing, which opened in 1900, education has been a crucial component to our mission over the past 125 years.”

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