Dr. Alois Zauner in the Neuroscience Institute's neuroangio imaging suite



New Frontiers

A doctor sitting in a Santa Barbara office instantly arrives at the beside of a patient in Lompoc -- 50 miles away.

No, it's not science fiction. An advanced robot called an RP-7 enables neurologists to be at a patient's hospital room from a remote location. Doctors can talk to and see the patient, as well as view vital stats and test results.

Standing 5 feet 6 inches and weighing 220 pounds, the robot, manufactured by Goleta-based InTouch Health, looks like a large vacuum cleaner. Its "head" is a flat-screen computer monitor that projects the fact of its operator, usually a doctor. A wireless broadband connection equipped with a microphone and speakers, plus a live two-way video feed, allow the doctor to communicate with patients, nurses, and other staff. Infrared sensors around the RP-7 prevent collisions and ease navigation.


The robot is an important part of the services offered by the Cottage Center for Neurosciences at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.


An RP-7 robot recently debuted in the Emergency Department at Lompoc Valley Medical Center, and it's playing a vital role in connecting patients there to the advanced technology and treatments available at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.



"Cottage is the first hospital outside of a major academic center that I have seen with this level of technology," said Dr. Philip Ente, the neurologist in Lompoc who is working closely with the Cottage Center for Neurosciences.

  Dr. Philip Ente and the RP-7 Robot

Because time is of the essence in successfully treating stroke patients, the robot will allow specialists at Cottage to consult quickly with Dr. Ente and other neurologists to determine if a patient needs to be transferred to Cottage.

Board-certified neurologists and neurosurgeons at the Center are available to care for a wide variety of emergencies, including brain aneurysms, acute ischemic stroke, and other vascular diseases of the brain, head, neck, and spinal cord areas.

Dr. Alois Zauner (pictured at top in the neuro-angio suite), who joined Cottage in 2007, is the only endovascular neurosurgeon between Los Angeles and the Bay Area with access to a highly specialized support team and a state-of-the-art biplanar neuroangio suite. This specialized equipment allows doctors to capture 3-D images with amazing details, with less exposure to radiation than with other types of imaging equipment.

"Establishing a new neuroscience center and neurovascular network for this region were the key factors that brought me to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital," Dr. Zauner explained.

California's Central Coast and Central Valley areas were previously underserved in the field of neurosciences, Dr. Zauner added. In addition, he is currently working with UCSB to establish a cerebrovascular research laboratory.
Neurologists like Dr. Ente in Lompoc are pleased that patients will now be able to access advanced treatments without having to travel to Los Angeles or the Bay Area.

"Previously, the closest place to find this technology was at UCLA Medical Center, What Cottage has now for acute stroke care is the same as what's available at UCLA," said Dr. Ente, who is also an associate professor at UCLA and spends two days a month at the Westwood campus.

"We couldn't avail ourselves of this technology before in Lompoc because it was too far away," he added. "This will enable us to help more patients."


For more information on the Santa Barbara Neuroscience Institute, please contact Gary Milgram, Service Line Director, at (805) 682-7111.