First Robotic Lung Surgery in Tampa Bay Performed at Moffitt Cancer Center

June 02, 2009

Tampa, FL– Ray Berkelbach is taking long walks three times a day just a couple weeks after having lung surgery. The 68-year-old retiree from Punta Gorda underwent robotic surgery at Moffitt Cancer Center to remove a cancerous part of his lung. His was the first lung procedure in the Tampa Bay area that used the robot-assisted da Vinci surgical system.

“This took nothing out of me. I’ve had no pain,” said Berkelbach. “People look at me and can’t believe I just had a lung operation.”

Lung surgeries are very complex operations because of the large vessels leading to and from the lungs and heart. Unlike the traditional open-chest method, the da Vinci system allows surgeons to perform minimally invasive procedures by guiding robotic arms as they make tiny incisions.   The new technique promises minimal trauma to the patient and better surgical results.

“The da Vinci robotic technology is incredible. It allows me greater operative dexterity and manipulation,” said Dr. Eric Sommers, the thoracic surgeon at Moffitt who did Berkelbach’s procedure. “You can do things with the robot that you couldn’t dream of doing with human hands, all through tiny ports.”

Only early stage lung cancer patients are candidates for the robotic procedure. The benefits include shorter hospital stays and decreased pain and discomfort. Berkelbach was the first patient at Moffitt to undergo the da Vinci lung surgery.  

“The incisions from two weeks ago have already healed,” said Berkelbach. “It’s hard to believe they took half a lung out. I’m going farther each day on my walks and I’d like to get back to golfing soon.”

Moffitt is already using the same robotic technology for prostate , kidney, bladder, testicular and uterine cancers.

About H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute

Located in Tampa, Florida, Moffitt Cancer Center  is the only Florida-based cancer center with the NCI designation as a Comprehensive Cancer Center for its excellence in research and contributions to clinical trials, prevention and cancer control. Moffitt currently has 15 affiliates in Florida, one in Georgia and two in Puerto Rico. Additionally, Moffitt is a member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, a prestigious alliance of the country’s leading cancer centers, and is listed in U.S. News & World Report as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” for cancer. Moffitt’s sole mission is to contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer.