Da Vinci robot’s precision is revolutionising surgery at QA Hospital

The Da Vinci robot Picture: Mark Clifford/2016 Intuitive Surgical Inc
The Da Vinci robot Picture: Mark Clifford/2016 Intuitive Surgical Inc
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Used five times a week for a range of procedures, the Da Vinci robot is revolutionising keyhole surgery.

Queen Alexandra Hospital got the robot in 2012 and has helped thousands of patients with quicker recoveries, smaller scars and less collateral damage.

It was us surgeons who wanted the robot because we knew it would be the future of key-hole surgery.

Dr Jim Khan

The robot’s four arms and manoeuvrable hands, which can twist 360 degrees, means narrow and hard-to-reach parts of the body can be operated on with precision and care.

Portsmouth leads the way when it comes to robotic surgery and was named as the training centre for European surgeons in 2014.

The Da Vinci is the only robot which can operate in five different areas of the body.

With its HD monitors and 3D views, the surgeon can sit to the side of the patient and operate its many arms with the tips of their fingers.

Dr Jim Khan, a consultant surgeon who specialises in colorectal operations at QA, uses the Da Vinci robot about 200 times a year.

He says: ‘It was us surgeons who wanted the robot because we knew it would be the future of keyhole surgery.

‘Technology is the key. When there is an advanced piece of machinery like the robot available, the need for open surgery for some procedures is not there.

‘Patients can see what the advantages are; they do not want to be spending days and days in hospital recovering.’

The robot was first used in the United States of America by Nasa. Engineers would use it for space missions, controlling the robot from their base on Earth.

But it was soon realised that the revolutionary design could be used in the medical sector.

QA Hospital, in Cosham, has had the robot for four years – in 2012 there were only eight others in the country.

Now, there are about 22 with the nearest available on the NHS in London or Oxford.

Currently, the hospital owes £780,000 to American firm Intuitive Surgical which owns it.

It loaned the robot to QA in 2012 and since then, the Rocky Appeal has been raising money to pay it off and secure its future for the people of Portsmouth and the surrounding area.

The pioneering surgery is for patients suffering with a range of problems in areas such as the upper gastrointestinal, urology, colorectal, gynaecology, and head and neck.

It can treat a number of cancers such as prostate, cervical, womb, bladder and bowel.

But it can also help with complex surgery in the pelvic area, abdominal section and in the head and neck.

It can help remove cancerous tumours by two small incisions. In one goes a small camera while the other is used for instruments.

Instead of big scars and having to spend weeks in hospital recovering, patients have two small stitches and can go home, in some circumstances, within a couple of days.

But the robot is not just about benefitting the patients.

It also improves the working life of the surgeon.

Dr Khan says: ‘For most of the operations we are doing with the robot, we are operating for up to six hours.

‘If we are doing that four to five times a week, it does cause problems when you do not have use of a robot.

‘Fatigue and stress are some issues as well as problems with your wrists, neck and shoulders.

‘Arthritis is a big problem and it can happen quite quickly in surgeons.

‘After a few years, it can be difficult for someone like me to continue to do labouring operations.

‘But with the robot, I am sat in a chair with support and it is just like sitting at a table.

‘There is just as much movement and it is all very natural.

‘The robot is prolonging the length of time a surgeon can be doing these sort of operations for their career.’

QA holds a number of open days for people to see the Da Vinci robot in action. The surgeons show the precision of the machine by peeling the skins of grapes and dissecting flowers.

For more information on the robot or the fundraising efforts of the Rocky Appeal get in touch with appeals co-ordinator Mick Lyons at mick.lyons@porthosp.nhs.uk.