Grand Strand Medical Center becomes first in Horry County to treat pancreatic cancer with robot

Published: Jul. 13, 2022 at 6:55 AM EDT
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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WMBF) - A Grand Strand Medical Center surgeon is paving the way with a new procedure aimed at improving the lives of his patients.

Dr. Aaron Pinnola is now using a robot to help guide him in the operating room and treat those with pancreatic cancer.

“It makes me happy that I’m able to provide these kinds of services to people in Horry County where it previously wasn’t available,” said Pinnola.­

Robots are not new at Grand Strand Medical Center, but they are when it comes to treating pancreatic cancer.

Over the last two months, Pinnola performed two specialized robot surgeries that were the first to be done in the county.

One surgery allowed him to remove the head of a patient’s pancreas, also known as a Whipple procedure.

During the second operation, he was able to remove a pancreatic cyst, also known as a cyst gastrostomy.

“So the robotic platform is just a tool that the surgeon uses,” said Pinnola. “It enables you to have four working arms on one camera and then three that you can toggle between during the case, and they’re all controlled by the surgeon.”

Pinnola, who is one of the only advanced general surgeons in Horry County, said these stomach operations are some of the hardest to perform, but the robots make the operation more effective.

“The main advantage for the robot is that patients will recover quicker,” said Pinnola. “The typical patient will recover quicker and with less pain so that they can get back their daily activity as well as get started on other treatments they need like chemotherapy.”

A patient would typically need to recover at the hospital for seven to 10 days and then need an additional three month recovery at home. But Pinnola said with the robot, he has seen faster results.

“We’ve seen patients leave the hospital in five days sometimes and have their recovery be as little as six weeks,” said Pinnola.

He also mentioned how rewarding it is when he can see patients back on their feet in a short amount of time.

“Just good patient outcomes, being able to tell a patient the cancer is cured and getting back to the things they enjoy in life,” said Pinnola.

There are currently three robots at Grand Strand Medical that surgeons can use to make procedures more effective.

The team is in the works of adding a fourth one in the near future.

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