From Science Fiction to Reality: Artificial Intelligence and its Applications to Robotic Surgery at St. Joe’s

New $300,000 Grant from TD Bank Group Supports Robotic Surgery and AI Research at St. Joe’s

When we hear the words ‘artificial intelligence’, our brains almost immediately conjure images from a sci-fi movie, but the Oxford Dictionary offers this more accurate definition: the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision making and translation between languages.

Here at St. Joe’s we’re integrating AI into the care we provide at the Boris Family Centre for Robotic Surgery, thanks to a $300,000 grant from TD Bank Group. Part of the grant enabled St. Joe’s to acquire the new da Vinci XI surgical robot in September 2020. The remainder has been allocated to investigating the role AI can play in the personalized delivery of medicine, enhancing patient satisfaction following joint replacement surgeries, improving the effectiveness of early stage lung cancer procedures and more.

“We know that concepts like artificial intelligence and robotic surgery can be difficult to imagine, but they’re exactly the kind of advancement that makes it possible for our doctors and researchers to push boundaries, to challenge assumptions and traditional methods of care, and shape the future of medicine. We’re so grateful to TD for their belief in our Hospital and for their foresight into funding innovative healthcare technology,” says Sera Filice-Armenio, President & CEO, St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation.

Dr. Waël Hanna poses in front of the new da Vinci Xi surgical robot. Dr. Hanna is a thoracic surgeon at St. Joe’s, who accounts for 70 percent of all robotic lung cancer surgeries performed across Canada.


Artificial Intelligence Could Change the Way We Treat Early Stage Lung Cancer

Every year, more people die from lung cancer than colon, breast, and prostate cancers combined. But there is hope. Lung cancer is often detected earlier thanks to advanced imaging technology and more frequent cancer screenings. This early discovery means that patients are living longer – many times, long enough to develop a second cancer in the lung. Since most early stage lung cancer patients are treated by surgically removing the entire lobe of the lung, the problem is, if and when these patients develop another cancer, they do not have enough of their lung left to do a second surgery.

What if surgeons didn’t have to remove the full lobe of the lung to treat a small tumour? What if they could perform a more precise, partial lobectomy removing only the affected tissue? Thoracic surgeon Dr. Wael Hanna and his team have been using guided-imaging technology and artificial intelligence to help localize and light up the most direct internal route to remove only the cancerous tissue of a patient’s lung, thereby leaving more healthy lung tissue intact. St. Joe’s aims to be the first Hospital to perform this procedure and evaluate the short and long-term outcomes for patients.

Artificial Intelligence is Challenging the Way We’ve Always Done Knee Replacements

Over 60,000 knee replacement surgeries are performed in Canada every year, making it the nation’s second most common surgery. Over 90% of patients will receive a total knee replacement even if only one or two of their knee compartments are affected. While this has been the standard of care for more than two decades, studies have shown it can lead to patients feeling like their new knee is foreign, less natural, and harder to rehabilitate. St. Joe’s is the first Hospital in Canada to have the MAKO RIO—a specialized orthopaedic surgical robot that makes it possible to perform both partial and total knee replacements.

“Our goal is to use the robot, paired with artificial intelligence, virtual modelling, and 3-D printing to perform both partial and total joint replacements that keep each patient’s unique anatomy and joint construction in mind. It’s not a one-size fits all approach,” says Dr. Anthony Adili, Chief of Surgery at St. Joe’s and an orthopaedic surgeon.

Scott Galbraith, District Vice-President for Hamilton, at TD is also a member of the Board of Directors at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation. About the recent grant, Scott says, “At TD, Better Health is one of the four drivers of our corporate citizenship platform, the TD Ready Commitment. By making community investments in technologies and research that have the power to improve life as we know it for the communities we serve, we can help improve health outcomes for our customers, colleagues, and their loved ones. We are proud to support St. Joseph’s Healthcare Foundation, knowing that they have the expertise to apply this funding to learning how AI can positively impact people who need life-saving and life-changing robotic surgery.”