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Robot ‘surgeons’ operating on patients at Royal London and Bart’s hospitals

PUBLISHED: 14:00 06 December 2017

Operating the Da Vinci 'robot' surgeon at the Royal London Hospital. Picture: Barts Heath NHS Trust

Operating the Da Vinci 'robot' surgeon at the Royal London Hospital. Picture: Barts Heath NHS Trust

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Robots are taking over some major surgery in hospitals in the City and east London such as heart, lungs and chest procedures.

'Robot' surgeons ready to go into 'auto pilot' with their Da Vinci robotic medical equipment. Picture: Barts Heath NHS Trust 'Robot' surgeons ready to go into 'auto pilot' with their Da Vinci robotic medical equipment. Picture: Barts Heath NHS Trust

Seven departments at the Royal London in Whitechapel and St Bartholomew’s in the Square Mile are now operating on patients using da Vinci robots.

The robots give minimal invasive surgery with small incisions instead of one large cut.

The first patient to be treated by robot was Chrissie Lefranc, 68, who had a cyst removed from her lung.

“The cyst could have turned cancerous or leaked and put my life in danger,” she said. “I was living with a time bomb, but it’s such a relief not to worry.

“I’m breathing better and deeper and will even be able to re-join my choir in time for Christmas.”

The £5.5 million high-tech equipment which has been paid for by Barts Charity is said to be safer than previous procedures which would have been too risky for many patients such as those with multiple health conditions.

Robots carry out procedures with patients losing less blood, having a faster recovery with less pain and going home quicker.

A robot has greater flexibility and control with arms rotating at 360 degrees in seven dimensions and a camera giving live three-dimentional images of the patient’s body, helping the human surgeon controlling it see more clearly and improving accuracy.

It is operated through a computer console beside the patient with its ‘arms’ holding the surgical instruments. The surgeon remains in control at all times, while a surgical team member stays at the patient’s side observing the surgery.

The surgeon behind the first robot operation, Kelvin Lau, said: “Some people unfortunately are too frail for open surgery. Our only choice in some cancer cases, for example, would previously have been radiotherapy which isn’t as effective as surgery.

“The da Vinci robot suddenly expands the number of people able to have surgery, or is more effective for those with tumours in places difficult to reach.”

Teams at The Royal London aim to use their robot on 500 patients every year by 2020, including transplant and head and neck surgery.

The robot at Bart’s Hospital is the only device in Britain dedicated to treating the heart, lungs and chest, where surgeons aim to use it for 40 per cent of the 1,500 operations performed there each year.

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