Faster healing with robotic-assisted thoracic surgery

When 61-year-old Stockholm resident Irene Krumm became short of breath in April 2012, she called her doctor. "I have asthma, but this was different," she recalled. X-rays showed a nodule in her left lung. Could it be cancer?

Some of Krumm's fear dissipated when she met Peter Dahlberg, MD, a general and thoracic surgeon who practices at the Vibrant Health Family Clinics. "He put me and my husband, John, at ease. He was so kind," she remembered.

Dahlberg explained her options, and Irene chose robotic-assisted thoracic surgery. "It seemed safest to me," she said. "And if it was cancer, Dr. Dahlberg could remove the lung right then. I didn't want to wait too long or have another procedure."

River Falls Area Hospital is the only medical center providing robotic-assisted surgery in western Wisconsin. "We offer comprehensive team-based care, everything from a nurse navigator to surgeons with extensive robotics experience," explained Dahlberg.

How robotics helps

Robotics allows thoracic surgery to be performed through a series of small incisions instead of one long one. For Krumm, this meant four small incisions - rather than a large incision and a long scar on her chest.

Robotic instruments extend the surgeon's reach, and tiny inserted cameras help him or her see deeper inside the body. This allows the surgeon to use minimally invasive techniques in places that are hard to reach or where there's risk of bleeding, such as the lungs. "Patients heal faster and can get back to their lives more quickly," Dahlberg said.

Krumm was taking care of her grandchildren after about three weeks and was fully healed in 12. "I'm back to work at the Pepin High School cafeteria, feeling fine," she said.

In good hands

Fortunately, Krumm's nodule turned out to be benign. "As I was coming out of the anesthesia, with my children around me, Dr. Dahlberg told me it wasn't cancer," she said. "I put my arms in the air and said, 'Thank you, Lord.'"

Krumm is grateful for the "phenomenal" care available right in River Falls. "I knew I was in good hands," she said.