Published on July 01, 2019

New Tech Helps Patient

Enloe caregivers holding signs

Robotic surgery means less pain, shorter recovery

Patricia Aguirre had a tumor on her adrenal gland that needed to be removed. After successful treatment for lymphoma in 2017, scans indicated a growing tumor on her kidney that raised concern. Her surgical oncologist, Keith Cavaness, D.O., suggested using Enloe’s new robotic surgery system to remove it.

“What? A robot’s going to do my surgery?” Aguirre asked. Dr. Cavaness, who is the director of Enloe Robotic Surgery Services, explained that a robot doesn’t perform the surgery. Instead, a skilled surgeon uses a computerized, robotic system to perform the procedure and maintains control at all times.

“It’s an experience I wouldn’t have considered before, but now I’d recommend it to anyone,” said the 76-year-old Aguirre. “It was awesome! I healed fast, had absolutely less pain because of the tiny incisions, and I was up and walking around really quickly.”

More good news: The tumor was non-cancerous.

“It was awesome! I healed fast, had absolutely less pain because of the tiny incisions, and I was up and walking around really quickly,” said Patricia Aguirre, a former patient.

Great Precision & Flexibility

Enloe Medical Center acquired the da Vinci robotic surgical system used for Aguirre’s procedure — and more than 200 others — in 2018. It enables surgeons to perform advanced procedures using a minimally invasive approach. The device includes mechanical arms with a camera and surgical instruments attached. A surgeon controls the arms from a nearby computer console that offers a magnified, 3D view of the surgical field, allowing for better visualization. Other team members assist in the operation.

“Robotic surgery provides greater precision, flexibility and control than what's possible with conventional or laparoscopic surgery,” said Dr. Cavaness, who primarily focuses on cancer surgeries of the abdomen and pelvis, specifically for individuals needing treatment for certain pancreas and liver conditions. “Robotic-assisted surgical techniques allow surgeons to do delicate and complex procedures in confined, hard-to-reach spaces that might have been impossible with other surgical methods.”

While open surgery often results in long incisions, a surgeon can perform an entire robotic procedure with just a few incisions smaller than the size of a dime. Aguirre’s surgery was done through several small incisions in and near her belly button.

Small Incisions, Big Benefits

Dr. Cavaness, who moved back from Texas last year to raise his family in his hometown of Chico, explains that patients benefit from robotic-assisted surgery in many ways, including:

  • Shorter hospital stays
  • Less risk of infection
  • Less blood loss/ fewer blood transfusions
  • Less pain from incisions
  • Less need for narcotic medications
  • Shorter recovery times

Enloe’s purchase of the da Vinci system also helps to recruit specialty physicians to Chico, such as Melissa Dawson, D.O.

Dr. Dawson, a female pelvic medicine and reconstructive surgeon, arrived in Chico in August 2018 after completing her fellowship training in Pennsylvania. In the past, if a woman had uterine prolapse or bladder incontinence issues, she and her family had to drive to the Bay Area for treatment. Now Dr. Dawson, a highly trained specialist, can see patients with pelvic floor disorders and other urogynecology issues at Enloe.

“The same excellent care for these procedures is now available locally by surgeons who live in the community and can manage their patients’ care,” Dr. Cavaness said. “This service is really going to make a difference for local patients and their caregivers, who can keep their lives and their treatment close to home.”

“This service is really going to make a difference for local patients and their caregivers, who can keep their lives and their treatment close to home,” said Keith Cavaness, D.O., the director of Enloe Robotic Surgery Services.

A Helping Hand in the Opioid Epidemic

Because robotic surgery results in less pain and quicker recovery times, physicians don’t need to prescribe as much pain medication for these operations. This is especially helpful in Butte County, since its drug-induced death rate is three times higher than the state average, according to the California Department of Public Health.

“Enloe has been actively looking at ways to reduce narcotic use in Butte County, and this is one of the ways we can contribute to accomplishing that goal,” Dr. Cavaness said.

The new technology will help a variety of people. Members of Enloe’s Robotic Surgery Services team perform:

  • Colorectal robotic surgery
  • General robotic surgery
  • Gynecologic robotic surgery
  • Surgical oncology robotic surgery
  • And urogynecologic robotic surgery

However, robotic surgery isn’t for everyone. That’s why surgeons at Enloe also perform open or minimally invasive, non-robotic procedures when that is the best approach. Talk with your doctor about your options and what’s best for you.

See the Surgical Robot

A traveling surgical robot will be available for public viewing at the Enloe Conference Center on July 11. The device is exactly like the one surgeons at Enloe use to perform procedures. Drop by from 5-8 p.m. to see the system for yourself.

You’ll be able to:

  • Maneuver the machine’s unique arms that give surgeons 360 degrees of movement, allowing for better precision and superior agility.
  • View the lens of the camera that provides a magnified, 3D view of the entire surgical field, allowing for better visualization.
  • Hear from the specially trained physicians who perform robotic-assisted surgery at Enloe Medical Center.

To register for this free event, visit

The Event at a Glance

  • Date: July 11
  • Time: 5-8 p.m.
  • Location: Enloe Conference Center, 1528 Esplanade in Chico