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New pediatric surgery center most advanced on West Coast

- By Erin Digitale

Courtesy of Lucile Packard Children's Hospital New operating room at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital

This new operating room is one of seven equipped with the latest imaging and communications technologies.

The surgical lights are on, the operating-room cameras rolling. Action began Dec. 1 in the new pediatric surgery facility at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital, now the most advanced on the West Coast.

The seven new operating rooms provide the latest in imaging and communication technologies, letting surgeons operate with unprecedented precision, speed and efficiency. Every detail of the 35,000-square-foot Ford Family Surgery Center - from the admitting desk to the route out of the recovery room - sets new standards in pediatric surgical care. Prior to its opening, pediatric operations were done at Stanford Hospital.

'There is no other children's hospital on the West Coast in which all the operating rooms are so state-of-the-art,' said Craig Albanese, MD, Packard Children's division chief of general surgery. 'It's an extraordinary facility that will help us prolong and save the lives of the most seriously ill children. We'll be able to do procedures we can't even imagine yet.'

The Ford Family Surgery Center is the latest milestone in a series of projects to increase Packard's capacity and enhance the overall patient experience. Plans are also under way to expand the hospital by 425,000 square feet and an additional 104 beds.

The surgery center is wired to be fully interactive: Machines are voice-activated, freeing doctors' and nurses' hands for key tasks. Each room has high-definition monitors which display patients' vital signs, medical records, X-ray images and scans at the bedside. Surgical lights have cameras that can broadcast to other departments, so surgeons can videoconference with pathologists and radiologists.

And the rooms contain the latest tools for each surgical specialty. For instance, a 'BrainLAB' in the neurosurgery OR integrates images from several types of pre-op brain scans into one super-image of the patient's brain. This three-dimensional image guides surgery with a GPS-like system that tracks each surgical tool in real time and displays its location in the brain-image map. 'Patients live and die by their scan images,' said Michael Edwards, MD, Packard's chief of pediatric neurosurgery.

For instance, if a brain tumor is near a gray matter region that controls movement, Edwards can pre-plan the operation and then watch his surgical tools move through images of the patient's motor cortex, obtained in a pre-surgical functional MRI scan and a fiber tract map, to ensure he's not cutting a brain region that would cripple the patient. Information from other scans helps him see exactly where the edges of the tumor lie as he operates. 'We'll be able to perform more complex, higher-risk surgeries with greater safety,' he said.

The new ORs average 650 square feet, 150-200 feet larger than the rooms at Stanford Hospital. Most equipment is mounted on moveable ceiling booms, which means teams can configure the rooms ergonomically for any operation.

The new design also lessens the stress of what one family called 'the surgical maze.' Patients can bypass Packard's general admitting and go straight to a surgery-specific admitting desk. They travel only a few steps for anesthesia prep, and then move to a waiting area with toys and child-sized furniture, where child-life specialists use play therapy to prepare them for their surgery experience. 'It's a very kid-friendly environment,' said Albanese, 'and doesn't seem like a traditional hospital or OR.'

Next, patients move to a pre-op holding area, where each bed has a TV and space for families to wait. Each child is assigned a confidential tracking number so parents can check screens to see where their child is in the surgical process. Afterward, parents join their kids in the 12-bed recovery room.

The facility enhances every aspect of patient care. 'Innovation begets innovation,' said Albanese. 'We can think more broadly, generate new ideas and make things better for patients.'

The Ford Family Surgery Center was built with a lead gift from the Thomas W. Ford Family and gifts from HEDCO Foundation, Morgan Family Foundation, The David and Lucile Packard Foundation, The Schow Foundation and The Valley Foundation.

Stanford Medicine integrates research, medical education and health care at its three institutions - Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Health Care (formerly Stanford Hospital & Clinics), and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford. For more information, please visit the Office of Communication & Public Affairs site at

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