Texas Medical Center

Modern Operating Rooms Require High-Tech Nurses

The University of Texas
M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

Modern operating room technology at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, like surgical robots and MRIs done in the OR while the patient is still on the table, are revolutionizing cancer care.

But at the same time, this advanced technology is requiring a special kind of nurse who has gone through “intense” training, says nurse manager Elena Dragan.

For example, in M.D. Anderson’s BrainSUITE, a specially designed operating room where surgical and diagnostic tools needed to conduct complex brain surgeries are all inone OR, nurses must focus on safety due to the BrainSUITE’s powerful 1.5-tesla magnet.

It’s especially important for the BrainSUITE team to pay close attention to detail in the highly magnetic environment.

“Surgical instruments aren’t compatible with the iMRI; if you drop one it can migrate toward the magnet,” Dragan reports.

She adds that the BrainSUITE represents the integration of science, surgery and art.

“It’s a unique venue for treating cancer.”

The space combines magnetic resonance imaging done in the operating room with image-guided surgery and data management technologies to give surgical teams better information during surgery for the safe and precise removal of brain tumors. Ceiling-mounted cameras provide updated images on huge video display panels during surgery.

“The technology is fascinating,” says nurse Susan Bradshaw, who is a member of the surgical team working in the BrainSUITE. “The patients and families get immediate information about whether brain tumors have been fully removed because we conduct MRIs during and immediately following the surgery.”

M.D. Anderson operating room nurses also work with robotic technology.

Using the da Vinci Surgical System, surgeons perform minimally invasive surgery in real time while seated at a console. They operate controls that direct four robotic arms inside the patient through tiny incisions. While three of the robotic arms feature surgical instruments, a fourth includes a small camera that transmits three-dimensional images of the surgical field back to the console. 

At least two nurses and one technician assist with each procedure, and must be familiar with the robot’s emergency shutdown procedures, as well as its varying instruments, says nurse manager Nadine Turner. 

“Nurses must understand the technicality of the robot so they can anticipate the needs of the surgeon,” she says. “The staff must be able to rapidly convert from endoscopic to open surgery, if necessary, and care for the patient in either situation.”

Turner adds that surgical robotics is a burgeoning field with limitless possibilities. While the da Vinci system is currently used at M.D. Anderson for urologic and gynecologic procedures, there are plans to use it for other types, including thoracic, head and neck and plastics. 

PHOTO INFORMATION: NURSES WITH KNOW-HOW—Nurses Susan Bradshaw, left, and Elena Dragan are part of the surgical team working in M.D. Anderson Cancer Center’s BrainSUITE, where brain surgeries are conducted using the most modern of medical innovations.