Skip to main content
Friday, Mar 8, 2024

Ballad Health expands robotic-assisted surgery at Johnston Memorial Hospital

More patients in the region will have access to advanced minimally-invasive procedures, as Ballad Health expands robotic-assisted surgery options at Johnston Memorial Hospital.

Hospital leaders unveiled new da Vinci and Ion robotic surgery units on Thursday, March 7, with an event that allowed community members a first glance at the technology. Johnston Memorial Hospital is the seventh Ballad Health facility to offer robotic-assisted surgery with the da Vinci system, and it is one of the first hospitals in the health system to offer Ion robot-assisted bronchoscopy.

“Providing the best possible care means giving our patients more options when they need surgery, and we’re pleased to be able to bring these robotic-assisted options to Abingdon and our surrounding counties,” said John Jeter, chief executive officer of Johnston Memorial Hospital.

“Johnston Memorial is proud to invest in the best technology the field has to offer, alongside specially trained surgeons and team members, to ensure we remain a leader in surgical care.”

The da Vinci surgical system includes four robotic arms that can be equipped with surgical instruments, as well as a high-definition camera. Surgeons use a separate control panel to move the robotic arms, which leads to a smoother, more precise procedure. The camera gives the surgeon a magnified, three-dimensional view, allowing surgeons a clearer view of the surgical site.

The system allows clinicians to perform procedures with more flexibility and precision through incisions that are less than two centimeters long, leaving patients with less pain, blood loss and scarring, shorter hospital stays, less dependency on post-surgery medications and shorter recovery times than afforded by conventional open surgery. Additionally, surgeons can use special imaging services during procedures to spot non-healthy tissue more easily.

The Ion system is a robotic-assisted platform for minimally invasive lung biopsies to help detect lung cancer sooner. The system uses an ultra-thin, highly maneuverable robotic catheter to reach parts of the lung not possible through a standard biopsy to test for cancerous cells. The technology uses CT scan data to generate a three-dimensional image of the patient’s lungs, down to the branches and nodules.

At Johnston Memorial, the da Vinci and Ion will now join the Mako surgical system, a robotic-assisted surgical arm that is used for joint replacements and orthopedic conditions.

“Just like laparoscopic surgery changed the face of the surgery field, robotic-assisted surgery is here to stay and improve outcomes for millions of patients every year,” said Haytham Adada, MD, the first physician in Ballad Health to complete an Ion procedure.

“Not only does the system grant surgeons more flexibility and precision, but the enhanced view of the surgical site also allows the surgeon to see areas of the body that wouldn’t otherwise be visible during traditional, open surgery.

“Our patients will benefit from Johnston Memorial’s investment in this technology. Often, patients get to go home on the day of their robotic-assisted surgery for a procedure that would have required an overnight hospital stay using open surgery. It’s very exciting to offer this option for patients in Abingdon.”

Ballad Health currently offers robotic-assisted surgery at locations throughout Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, including three community hospitals, and the health system has also developed a robotics training program for new and incoming surgeons. Da Vinci surgical systems have been in use in Ballad Health facilities since 2008, with more than 16,000 robotic-assisted procedures performed throughout the health system to date. The surgical technology is an option for multiple surgical specialties, including general surgery, orthopedic surgery, urological surgery and gynecologic surgery.

“We are delighted to expand access to these services, as it is not only beneficial to patients in Abingdon, but patients in neighboring communities will now gain access to these ground-breaking technologies,” said Chad Couch, MD, president of Ballad Health’s Northern Region, which includes Johnston Memorial.

“This will give patients the agency to choose the best option for their care alongside their doctor and care team. It eliminates the need for patients who want robotic-assisted procedures to have to travel 45 minutes to an hour for optimal care. This marks a significant stride towards Ballad Health’s overarching goal of ensuring that everyone, regardless of their location, has access to the highest quality of care.”

Patients should consult with their doctor to see if robotic-assisted surgery is right for them. Read more about Ballad Health’s robotic-assisted surgery program at

JMH Robotics photo


Johnston Memorial Hospital robotics photo