The Florida Hospital in Tampa is the first in the nation to use a virtual technology called "Surgical Theater" to help surgeons remove tumors, which is the only cure for pancreatic cancer, according to Dr. Sharona Ross.

  • 1st patient completed procedure from start to finish earlier this month
  • Patients can put on virtual headset, see 3D images of internal organs
  • Technology not new, but not used previously for pancreatic cancer
  • Florida Hospital Tampa

A St. Petersburg man, Gordon Somsel, 76, was the first pancreatic cancer patient to have the procedure done from start to finish earlier this month.

Somsel’s wife, Carol, said most surgeons would’ve treated her husband’s tumor with chemotherapy because it was lodged against some major blood vessels.

“We are thanking God for this experience, because she showed us how close one of the veins was,” said Carol. “Somebody else could’ve very incidentally nicked it and killed Gordy.”

Ross said she, too,  would’ve avoided the surgery, if it weren’t for Surgical Theater. The technology allowed her to see exactly what angle to cut out the tumor to avoid nicking those blood vessels.

“We were able to peel it off the blood vessels with minimal blood loss and with negative margins. That is incredible,” said Ross. “I wouldn’t have done this robotically before without this technology, because I would think it might be too involved. Wouldn’t take the risk.”

Somsel said he experienced no pain from the surgery, and was released from the hospital a few days later.

“The best thing is the care, well, from Dr. Ross’ team and the people here on the floor,” he said. “You can tell there’s a lot of respect both ways.”

Patients can also put on the virtual headset and see a detailed 3D image of their internal organs. Ross said Surgical Theater has been around for a while for neurosurgery, but this is the first time it’s being used to treat pancreatic cancer.

“Gordon was the first one,” she said. “The first one from the perspective that we were able to utilize this technology in a holistic way.”

Somsel said he’s cancer free and looking forward to spending another month in St. Petersburg before moving back to Michigan for the summer.