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'technology' posts

Surgical precision and painted pumpkins

Forget 'will it blend' - you should be asking, can my robot paint a pumpkin? (It can!)

Dr. Kristen Austin, OB/GYN (obstetrics and gynecology) physician at Swedish/Issaquah paints a Jack-O-Lantern on a miniature pumpkin using the da Vinci robot to demonstrate how this device gives surgeons greater surgical precision and dexterity over existing approaches.


If you've been wondering what the setup looks like in the OR, here are a few behind the scenes photo from our video shoot:

Should a robot perform your surgery?

Robotic surgery - the term implies some futuristic concept, a la the “Jetsons” or Isaac Asimov. As someone who was a science fiction fan growing up, I never thought I’d actually spend every day of my professional life answering this question.

As a gynecologic oncology surgeon, this is a question I now ask myself every time I pick up a patient’s chart. And the answer more times than not is YES! Why?

How do you find health information online?

Some people prefer to read. Some prefer to listen. And some watch videos.

Based on our YouTube channel, we know that many people find videos to be a helpful resource to learn more about their health, diseases, conditions, treatments, meet their physicians and more.

For example, Dr. Ludlam’s videos on the pituitary gland and some related diseases and conditions are some of our most viewed videos (after the flash mob and robotic videos):

We'd love to hear from you. How do you prefer to get your health information online?

Global to Local: Impacting the SeaTac and Tukwila Communities

Continuing Swedish’s long-standing commitment to improve the health and well-being of our region, Swedish has partnered with Washington Global Health Alliance, Public Health of Seattle & King County, and HealthPoint to address disparities in local healthcare through a groundbreaking initiative: Global to Local.

The Global to Local initiative is a new approach in applying global solutions to local healthcare challenges in underserved populations. The partnership reached out to SeaTac and Tukwila, which are just 15 miles south of Seattle and are both strong, vibrant communities with a long history of activism and community pride. However, with the settlement of new immigrants and refugees there have been many challenged for access to healthcare. Currently there are over 70 languages spoken in SeaTac and Tukwila schools and households. Many families have never seen a primary care doctor or do not know how to navigate through the healthcare system. These challenges have increased the need for additional services to address the basic needs of the community.

What will Global to Local do?

My hearing loss isn't bad enough for hearing aids, is it?

After a hearing test, it is common to have questions about the results.  One that is frequently asked is “My hearing loss isn’t bad enough for hearing aids, is it?” In fact one young man asked me that very question today that made me want to share my answer here. This is a great question!  Read on for my answer.

Domesticated Pedestrians.

At what point did we stop teaching our children about road safety? As I drive around, either near work or home, I find there are people walking to and from completely ignoring the crosswalks or signals. Sometimes they have their headphones on and couldn’t hear a car coming even if they wanted to. Sometimes they are talking on their cell phone. And sometimes they’re even running with their kids across a busy street, teaching them this dangerous activity. I find these incidents disconcerting.

I’ve come to call these people domesticated pedestrians because they’ve lost their fear of cars. It’s sort of like when someone feeds squirrels or any other wild animal and they get so used to the food source that they lose their fear of people. This is not a healthy practice to get into.

These domesticated pedestrians may be kids or adults.

Cutting Edge Concept in the Treatment of tongue, tonsil, and throat cancer

Cancers of the tongue, tonsil, and throat are being diagnosed at an increasing rate, even in the non-smoking population. Transoral Laser Microsurgery (TLM) and Trans Oral Robotic Surgery (TORS) are some of the newest intervention available for patients with these cancers.

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During my first 3 years of medical school in Cleveland, I frankly did not know anything about cancers of the mouth and throat (otherwise called "Head & Neck Cancer").  Really, I did not know you could get cancer in the tongue or tonsil!  It wasn't until the final year of medical school that I was exposed to the field of Head & Neck Surgery, that I realize the impact of these cancers on the quality of life of patients.

Those cancers are generally not featured in the media, and I would argue that most of us will live a lifetime without meeting more than a handful of patients who have this type of cancer.  There is no marathon, 10K walk, or charity gala on behalf of Head & Neck Cancer... right?  Well, we did have some high-profile patients in the past few years.  We all remember Michael Douglas (actor), George Karl (former coah of the now defunct Supersonics...moment of silence), and Roger Ebert (movie critic)...

Well, this type of cancer is now being diagnosed at an increasing rate.  And not just in the smoking population!  We are now seeing many young patients, who have never smoked, who get diagnosed with Head & Neck cancer.  I mean, we are talking about patients in their 20's and 30's!  This is possibly due to generational lifestyle changes, as there is now strong scientific evidence that certain types of HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) are causing this cancer.  Yes... It's the same virus that causes cervical cancer in women.  This topic probably warrants its own separate blog, and I'll get on it next time!

The symptoms, diagnosis, and pathophysiology of this cancer is beyond the scope of this blog.  If you want to know more about symptoms, diagnosis, etc..., just leave a comment, and I'll try to answer your questions and comments as promptly as possible. 

The goal of this blog is to highlight some of the new treatment paradigm for this type of cancer.  More specifically, new minimally invasive surgical procedures called Transoral Laser Microsurgery (TLM) and Trans Oral Robotic Surgery (TORS).

Traditionally, Head & Neck cancers require either major surgery or intense chemo-radiation, or sometimes even a combination of surgery and chemo-radiation.  Surgery will often result in difficulty swallowing and speaking.  Chemo-radiation has improved results in swallow and speech, but even the non-surgical treatment protocol will often leave the patient with significant deficit.   

So what are the new options?  What if we could remove the cancers through the mouth?  What if we didn't have to break open the lip and jaw to get to the throat?  What if we could excise the cancer and still allow the patient to swallow and talk normally?  What if we could decrease the amount of radiation and chemo?  Well, many innovators have asked themselves these questions, and we have now some answers to these questions.  Evolving answers, obviously, as new technology will continuously allow us to push the cutting edge even further.

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