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‘Robot surgery is NHS future’ Royal London Hospital declares after 200 precision operations

PUBLISHED: 14:59 05 October 2018 | UPDATED: 13:09 06 October 2018

Royal London surgeon Elly Brocklebank at the controls of the robot at its public debut. Picture: Mike Brooke

Royal London surgeon Elly Brocklebank at the controls of the robot at its public debut. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

A robot that has helped surgeons carry out 230 operations at the Royal London in 12 months has had its first birthday public debut with some of the patients it has treated.

Testing the robot skills on a dummy using the 'Operation' board game. Picture: Mike BrookeTesting the robot skills on a dummy using the 'Operation' board game. Picture: Mike Brooke

Stalls and networking with surgeons were laid on in the hospital last night where people were invited to try their ‘robotic hand’ at removing bones from a dummy without setting of the alarm or flashing light controlling, the robot’s tentacles and 3D cameras.

The £2.2 million da Vinci device, installed a year ago with funds raised by Bart’s Health charity, has more flexibility than a surgeon’s bare hands.

Its arms rotate 360 degrees in seven dimensions and its live 3D camera imaging gives the human surgeon controlling it 100 per cent accuracy.

Patients lose less blood and have far smaller incisions at 8mm instead of 30mm, reducing the risk of infection from open wounds, and have faster recovery.

Elly Brocklebank and the robot used in surgery at the Royal London. Picture: Mike BrookeElly Brocklebank and the robot used in surgery at the Royal London. Picture: Mike Brooke

Consultant gynaecological oncologist Elly Brockbank carried out her first operation with the robot last November.

“This is the future of surgery,” Elly told the East London Advertiser.

“The robot gives me 3D vision to move instruments in and out, left and right, rotate 360 degrees with far greater dexterity.

“I’ve no doubt that all NHS hospitals will be using some form of robotic surgery in 10 years’ time. I’m not putting myself out of a job—the robot is assisting me to do the surgery with greater precision.”

Elly (right) and team colleague after using robotic surgery technology for the first time. Picture source: Barts NHS Health TrustElly (right) and team colleague after using robotic surgery technology for the first time. Picture source: Barts NHS Health Trust

Patients undergo less-invasive surgery and go home quicker with less risk of complications. They can often be discharged the next day after an operation to remove lung cancer.

The hospital has carried out 239 robotic procedures in the first 12 months. It aims to use the robot on 500 patients every year by 2020.

Anne Bishop, 53, was operated on in June with the robot to remove colon cancer, which had returned after 30 years.

“This time I’ve recovered more quickly thanks to the robot,” she said. “The less invasive approach is better for your body and mind and you make a really good recovery. Even my GP is staggered at how well I look.”

The Royal London in Whitechapel where 239 robotic operations have been carried out in 12 months. Picture: Mike BrookeThe Royal London in Whitechapel where 239 robotic operations have been carried out in 12 months. Picture: Mike Brooke

Surgeons like Elly Brockbank learned to ‘robot’ after 32 hours practice on a dummy to get the technique. Her first ‘live’ operation was to remove a patient’s ovaries which took just 40 minutes, instead of an hour.

She brought her two young children into work one day to meet the robot that mummy uses to make people better.

But it hasn’t influenced them to be surgeons when they grow up—her son wants to be a footballer!

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