At Stanford Health Care – ValleyCare, future of healing is high-tech

Stanford Health Care – ValleyCare is harnessing advanced technology to provide state-of-the-art care to patients in the East Bay.

- By Emma Yasinski

Valerie Sugiyama, MD, and Isabel Lazo, MD, with he da Vinci Surgical System at Stanford Health Care – ValleyCare.
Enrique Mendoza

Stanford Health Care – ValleyCare is committed to providing state-of-the-art care to patients all over the East Bay. 

From robots that assist with surgery and reduce recovery times to innovative devices that treat stubborn hernia-related back pain, Stanford Health Care – ValleyCare harnesses advanced technology to bring the best care closer to home.

Here’s a look at these and other new technologies are providing patients with high-quality orthopaedic, cancer and stroke care, as well as a preview of changes to the ambulatory surgery center to expand and improve its services.  

The da Vinci Surgical System

Aided by the da Vinci Surgical System, surgeons can perform complex operations while making only tiny incisions to minimize pain, bleeding and recovery time. In one of the first surgeries using the system at Stanford Health Care – ValleyCare, doctors removed a woman’s uterus, ovaries and fallopian tubes to treat her endometrial cancer. 

The woman said she felt “pretty good” three days after the surgery and was making “an incredibly fast recovery.” 

How it works: Two surgeons work in tandem during an operation: One controls a robotic arm to perform the surgery, while the other stays at the patient’s bedside. 

The first surgeon manipulates the arm, which is equipped with a small camera, surgical tools and other delicate instruments. While the surgeon works, the camera displays three-dimensional images of the surgical site on a monitor. The surgeon views those images to help guide the arm and tools to the surgical site and conduct the operation. The doctor at the bedside closely observes the patient during the procedure.

“Through the support of the ValleyCare Charitable Foundation, we were able to make this significant investment to enhance the care we provide to our community and benefit our patients with a faster recovery, less pain and an earlier return to their daily activities,” said Rick Shumway, Stanford Health Care – ValleyCare’s president and CEO.

Reherniation prevention and repair

More than a decade ago, Eugene Carragee, MD, professor of orthopaedic surgery at Stanford Medicine, began research into why between 5% and 20% of patients who had surgery to repair spinal disc hernias experienced painful recurrences of the condition. 

A spinal hernia occurs when soft inner tissue from a person’s spinal disc pokes through the tough outer layer, pinching nerves and causing pain. Though the surgery, called a discectomy, is generally simple and successful, research led by Carragee showed that the likelihood of reherniation was tied to the size of the injury, or hole, created by the original hernia. Now, during a short surgical procedure, physicians use a closure device to block the hole and stop hernias from coming back. Stanford Health Care – ValleyCare is the first in California to use the device.

How it works: The device, called the Barricaid, is made of woven mesh attached to a titanium anchor that is implanted into bone. The mesh blocks the opening created in the outer layer of the spinal cord where the soft tissue had squeezed out and pinched nerves.

Knee replacement robot 

In January, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new robotic device that assists in full-knee replacements — delicate surgeries that can require substantial recovery time. The device allows doctors to customize the placement of knee-replacement prostheses to accommodate each patient’s anatomy and reduce damage to nearby soft tissues, thereby decreasing pain and potentially shortening recovery.  

“It’s not one size fits all anymore,” said Aaron Salyapongse, MD, a Stanford Medicine clinical associate professor of orthopaedics and medical director of joint replacement at Stanford Health Care – ValleyCare. Doctors, nurses and surgical staff at the hospital are being trained to use the equipment, and the first surgery is scheduled to take place early in October.  

How it Works: During surgery, the table-mounted robotic device, called the VELYS Robotic-Assisted Solution, registers a patient’s knee, scanning constantly and sending images to a monitor so the surgeon can analyze the position of the joint. The machine is equipped with a tool that allows physicians to execute the customized surgical plan with precision.  

“The goal is to provide the best surgery and the best knee replacement we can for each individual patient,” Salyapongse said. “With this device, we have added a whole new layer of data that gives us that ability.”  

 Advanced ambulatory care on the horizon

In the spring of 2022, Stanford Health Care – ValleyCare will debut its Livermore ambulatory surgery center under new licensure, allowing for advanced-level outpatient procedures in a nonhospital setting. The change is designed to streamline operations, specialize the services offered and improve outpatient care.

The ambulatory surgery center operates at Stanford Health Care – ValleyCare’s Livermore campus. 

Among other services, physicians at the center will conduct orthopaedic procedures, such as total hip and knee replacement, along with ophthalmological and gastrointestinal procedures, such as colonoscopies. 

To support procedures that have previously been offered only in a hospital setting, Stanford Health Care – ValleyCare is improving sterile processing at the ambulatory facility and is purchasing new operating room lights, tables and surgical instruments.

“The change in license to a freestanding facility gives us the opportunity to expand procedures available in Livermore and allows us to streamline operating and clinical efficiencies,” said Kyle Wichelmann, chief financial officer at Stanford Health Care – ValleyCare. “Ultimately, this results in delivering better care to the patient at a more affordable cost.” 

About Stanford Medicine

Stanford Medicine is an integrated academic health system comprising the Stanford School of Medicine and adult and pediatric health care delivery systems. Together, they harness the full potential of biomedicine through collaborative research, education and clinical care for patients. For more information, please visit

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