The year 2023 has increased the use of robotic, minimally invasive surgery for lung cancer, decreasing the amount of complications and recovery time for patients with the disease, explained Dr. Mark Dylewski.
In a recent interview with CURE®, Dylewski, who is the chairman of thoracic oncology for the Miami Cancer Institute and director of thoracic surgery for the Baptist Health System, explained how he thought this new surgical technique was one of the biggest advancements in the field.
Additionally, Dylewski looked ahead to 2024, and noted that artificial intelligence — also known as AI — may play a bigger role in lung cancer surgery, though the implications that this may bring are still to be determined.
Looking back on 2023, what would you say is one of the biggest advancements in the field of lung cancer surgery?
I think the most exciting thing about surgery is the introduction of robotics — (also known as) minimally invasive surgery. (We’re) using robotic technology and integrated computer imaging, and so forth. We’re able to work with companies developing this devices to make it less invasive, through smaller incisions, fewer incisions, which transition to better outcomes, fewer complications or shorter hospital stays early recovery for the patient. That has really changed the dynamic in which way surgeons practice nowadays.
Can you further discuss how minimally invasive surgery can improve quality of life for patients with lung cancer, especially compared to the surgical techniques that were used years ago?
I think the quality of life has improved, 100-fold between traditional open surgery and now the most advanced robotic minimally invasive surgery. If you if you really look back and reflect upon why surgeons did in the past, it was largely a comfort thing for most surgeons that practiced 20 or 30 years ago — they were comfortable opening up the chest cavity to put their hands in there to be to be able to feel the anatomy to identify the anatomy, and to be able to do a surgery safely.
With the advent of better imaging, better MRIs, better CT scans better PET scans, we began to understand the anatomy and be able to visualize the anatomy without actually looking inside the chest and feeling the organs inside the chest. We were able to conceptualize the where the tumor was located based on imaging, and that allowed us to use smaller incisions, endoscopic surgery in order to accomplish the same type of surgery through a minimally invasive approach.
So robotics now has put a computer between the surgeon and the patient, and I don’t think anybody in the United States could say that a cell phone doesn’t make them a more efficient, probably a safer person when it comes to conducting their daily routine. So imagine putting a computer in front of a surgeon between a patient that only makes a surgeon better as long as they figure out the safe way to integrate that technology. And that’s what computers and robotic surgery allow us to do.
I’ll give you a perfect example. Just consider that many surgeons have a mild tremor, and when they’re suturing or when they’re nervous, that tremor may get worse. Well, a computer allows you to program that tremor out of the actual movements that the robots doing. So it makes things so much safer, and more precise when you’re doing surgery as a surgeon.
What are you hoping to see for 2024 and beyond when it comes to lung cancer surgery?
I think artificial intelligence is probably going to play a big role, and it’s too early to tell how big of a role that’s going to be, but one of the challenges that we face as surgeons trying to train the next generation of surgeons who is really to be able to give the skill set that’s necessary to younger surgeons, because as you probably will realize surgeons are no longer spending hours on end in the hospital, studying and doing surgery and taking care of patients … So you have to balance your training to your quality of life. I think that’s where these artificial intelligence technologies are going to come into play, where they’re actually your surgical assistant, if you will, perhaps talking to you in the system educating you about proper technique, what the anatomy is, it may help you visualize, or overlay the CT images into operatively in order to guide the surgeon and educate the surgeon and sort of expedite their sort of adoption of this new technology. I think that’s where you were going to see the next advancements and surgical technique.
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