The University of Oxford and the Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals NHS Trust have acquired the latest technology in robotic surgery, the only one of its kind in the UK.
The new £2 million instrument in the recently opened Oxford Cancer Centre will benefit patients undergoing keyhole surgery to remove certain types of cancer. It will initially be used in some prostate and renal cancer operations, with surgeons aiming to expand its use to bladder and colorectal cancer in the future. A careful training and development programme in the use of the technology is under way for surgeons at the Cancer Centre.
A set of robotic arms, operated by the surgeon sitting at a console positioned away from the patient, is used to carry out minimally invasive surgery with great precision. Patients are known to recover faster from robotic surgery than the equivalent conventional surgery, so there is a significant benefit.
The da Vinci surgical system acquired by the University and Oxford Radcliffe Hospitals is a newly introduced model that is not available anywhere else in the UK. It is unique in having dual consoles to allow an experienced operator to train other surgeons in use of the robot, much like dual control allows driving instructors to aid those learning to drive. It should allow Oxford to become a centre for robotic surgery training in the UK.
“I’m delighted that we’ve been able to obtain the latest surgical robot for Oxford. These robotic systems are revolutionising the way surgery is carried out, offering astonishing precision,’ says Freddie Hamdy, the Nuffield Professor of Surgery at the University of Oxford. “Patients will be able to benefit from the latest developments in surgery and, with improved recovery times, they should be able to go home sooner as well.”
The system scales down the precise hand movements of the surgeon on the console’s fingertip controls, and transmits them to the robotic arms to give miniaturised movements of the keyhole surgery instruments at the patient. The console also allows the surgeon to see in 3D and at 10-15 times magnification.
The operation is still absolutely reliant on the surgeon’s skill. The robot is not conducting the operation, it cannot be programmed, nor can it make decisions on its own. Its every move is precisely controlled by the surgeon.
As well as benefiting patients and teaching, the new robot will be at the centre of research to evaluate the new technology. There is currently not enough data to determine conclusively whether robotic surgery improves patient outcomes in the long term after surgery, rather than any differences being down to individual surgeon skill. With such an instrument now established in Oxford, Professor Hamdy’s team aim to carry out a number of studies to compare robotic techniques with the best conventional surgery to settle this question.
“This is a fantastic example of how the University and the Trust are working hand-in-hand to deliver benefits for patients,” says Professor Hamdy. “It’s a demonstration of our commitment to be at the forefront of developments in surgery, teach the latest techniques, and research and evaluate technologies right at the cutting-edge.”
Divisional Director, Moira Logie said: “This is an important addition to the range of potential surgical options for patients undergoing keyhole surgery to remove certain types of cancer. At the moment only patients funded by research and charitable funds can be treated with the robot but we hope that NHS commissioners will support this technology in the future once it has been thoroughly evaluated.”