Robot hospital ‘surgeon’ at Royal London operates on Julie, 62 — and she doesn’t feel a thing
- Credit: Barts NHS Trust
Julie Lister has had a hysterectomy under the knife of a robot ‘surgeon’ at the Royal London Hospital without any pain and was back at home in Plaistow the next day—and doing fine.
The 62-year-old is one of a-hundred patients operated on by surgeons at Whitechapel using robotic technology.
“It was great,” Julie said. “It’s a small cut and you don’t feel any pain.
“People might be scared thinking the robot is doing the operation, but it’s the surgeon. The staff don’t leave you.”
Human surgeons work the controls with their hands and feet using its miniature camera and instruments from a console next to the patient, which is said to be more accurate with fewer complications, reducing pain and speeding up recovery.
The hospital has just completed its 100th robotic surgery procedure since the Da Vinci machine was brought into the operating theatre in November. Robot surgery is being used at booth the Royal London in Whitechapel and at Bart’s in the City.
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The first patient to be treated by robot was Chrissie Lefranc, a 68-year-old from Hornchurch, who had a cyst removed from her lung.
She recalled: “The cyst could have turned cancerous or leaked and put my life in danger. I was living with a time bomb, but it’s such a relief now not to worry.”
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The robotic technology is being applied to more and more complex operations in gynae-oncology, colorectal, urology, hepatobiliary and ear, nose and throat. It is also planned to be used for more ambitious renal kidney transplants later in the year.
One of the surgeons behind the robot, Kelvin Lau, explained: “Some people unfortunately are too frail for open surgery. Our only choice in some cancer cases would have been radiotherapy, which isn’t as effective.
“The robot suddenly expands the number of people able to have surgery, and is also particularly effective in those with tumours that are difficult for a surgeon to reach. The clinical advantages are breath-taking.”
The £5.5 million equipment paid for by Bart’s Charity gives minimal invasive surgery with small incisions instead of one large cut. It has greater flexibility and control than the human hand, with arms rotating at 360 degrees in seven dimensions.
The Royal London hospital is to use it on 500 patients a year by 2020, including transplant and head surgery.