Robotic surgery for cancer

Chris O’Brien Lifehouse uses the first in the Southern Hemisphere, and latest version of, surgical robot to conduct less-invasive surgery in its cancer operating theatres. The da Vinci XI Surgical System (aka ”the Robot”) is one of the most advanced pieces of surgical hardware in the world today. Robotic surgery for cancer can not only be used to treat multiple tumour streams including head and neck, colorectal, gynaecological and prostate cancer, but it does this through state of the art minimally invasive surgery.

For people who already have to endure the hardship of having cancer, using the Robot translates into a number of significant benefits including:

  • Reduced blood loss and so reduced need for blood transfusions;
  • Less pain and so less need for pain medication;
  • Faster recovery times;
  • Fewer post-operative complications;
  • Reduced risk of infection and less scarring; and
  • Shorter stays in hospital.

Professor Trevor Tejada-Berges, a Gynaecologic Oncology Surgeon at Lifehouse, has used robotic surgery for cancer for the past decade in the USA. “I saw first-hand the benefits of this technology to both patients and clinicians. The expectation is that increasingly complex surgeries will be performed in a minimally invasive manner and, in this regard, the robotic platform and ensuing learning curve are markedly superior.”

To illustrate this point, without a Robot a patient with throat cancer may have to endure having their jaw broken, or even having a piece removed to then be rebuilt with a reconstruction from other bones. This can cause disfigurement as well as difficulty eating, speaking and swallowing. However by using the Robot a surgeon can operate through the mouth, an approach which not only results in no visible scarring or disfigurement but also aids the precise removal of cancerous tissue.

In addition, women who might not otherwise be suitable for minimally invasive surgery due to obesity, badly scarred tissue or multiple operations can receive the treatment they need by using the Xi System.

From the surgeon’s point of view, the Robot helps perform minimally invasive surgery more efficiently and effectively as it enables the movements of the surgeon’s hands to be scaled, eliminating tremor, and replicated in a precise and natural manner at the operative site.  Such precision is critically important, especially in head and neck surgery where a specialist may be operating sometimes within millimetres of organs such as the eyes, ears and brain.  Accuracy is also enhanced by the System’s three-dimensional technology which provides the surgeon with improves visualisation during an operation whilst the ergonomic design of the Robot allows greater physical comfort.  The latter benefit is especially important when major surgery can often last for 8 to 10 hours or even longer.

For a referral, please ask your GP to refer to one of the following surgeons:

Head and neck cancer: Dr Carsten Palme, Dr Jonathan Clark

Urology: Prof. Henry WooDr Scott Leslie, Assoc Prof Ruban Thanigasalam, Dr Nariman Ahmadi

Gynaeoncology: Dr Trevor Tejada Burges

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