Dr. Elizabeth Kline Achieves Milestone for Thoracic Robotic Surgeries

Dr. Kline and staff

Dr. Kline and staff

A 59-year old woman will live cancer free after a life-saving surgery Monday that cured her early stage lung cancer.

Dr. Elizabeth Kline, the patient’s thoracic surgeon, celebrated her patient’s successful surgery as well as a milestone of her own – becoming one of just two doctors in South Carolina to perform 500 thoracic surgeries robotically. Roper St. Francis Healthcare’s most senior leaders, Anthony Jackson and Dr. Chris McLain, lauded Kline for her impressive achievement.

“Dr. Kline is one of our healthcare system’s most patient-focused physicians,” said Jackson, interim chief operating officer. “She’s forward thinking, passionate about outcomes and quality, and always interested in learning. Achieving 500 robotic surgeries is a tremendous accomplishment.”

“It’s not surprising, having worked with Dr. Kline and seen her clinical prowess, the way she interacts with patients, her attention to detail and her excellent outcomes,” said McLain, interim chief physician officer. “It speaks to the progressive nature of our organization and how we’re constantly looking for ways to do things better.”

Kline thanked her team and credited her great results to them. She’s been doing robotic surgeries for about five years now, and she said she prefers operating with the robot.

“For patients, it offers the best path to return to normal life or the quickest avenue to additional treatment such as chemotherapy, if that’s what is needed,” she said.

Her surgical accomplishment happened to fall during an especially meaningful month for Kline – November is lung cancer awareness month.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in the country, and an estimated 9 million Americans qualify as high risk for developing lung cancer. Still, lung cancer is more treatable than ever because of advances in imaging, specifically low dose CT screenings, and Roper St. Francis Healthcare has been at the forefront of early detection through its low dose CT program.

“We do lung cancer screenings every month, and those save lives,” Kline said.

Dr. Elizabeth Kline

Kline had been a practicing surgeon for five years when she took courses in 2008 to learn thoracoscopy, or the first generation of minimally invasive procedures. When robotic surgery came along as an option a few years later, Kline immediately was on board.

“It really just made sense that as technology evolves, we evolve,” she said. “The visualization is better, the instrumentation is better, the ergonomics are better and the patient outcomes – particularly compared to open procedures, are profoundly better. Patients are home quicker, and there are fewer post-operative problems.”

In robotic surgeries, surgeons sit about 10 feet away from patients and “drive” the robot with their hands and feet. Unless a surgery is extraordinarily complicated and she can’t do it well robotically, Kline said she opts to use the robot.

Kline is the second surgeon this year to celebrate a surgical milestone with the da Vinci Surgical System. In September, Dr. Jorge Lagares became one of only four colorectal surgeons nationally to complete 1,000 robotic procedures.

Kline thanked the Medical Society of South Carolina for providing some funding for the robot; the hospital administration for supporting it; the Integrated Practice Network leaders for surgery, Dr. Megan Baker and Stephanie McKoin, for being advocates for robotic surgery; and especially her team.

“They are a hard-working, creative and committed group of people who make operating fun,” Kline said. “They do such a great job, and it pays off for the patient.”

Dr. Kline and OR staff

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