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Right Arrow Robotic help in the operating theatre
27 October 2006 at 14:16
Mr Sean Vesey, Consultant Urologist, at Southport & Formby District General Hospital has a new robot assistant. The new machine, affectionately nicknamed by operating theatre staff as ‘Robbie the Robot’, greatly facilitates surgery by improving the surgeons view, reducing operating time, and freeing up a member of the operating team.

Mr Vesey specialises in laparoscopic surgery, often known as keyhole surgery. This involves inserting a narrow video telescope, known as a laparoscope, connected to a video camera system into the patient to enable him to visualize on a TV monitor the area of surgical interest. The robot, which is precisely positioned using lasers, ‘holds’ the laparoscope in position. To move the laparoscope and obtain a different view, Mr Vesey wears a lightweight headset that emits an infrared signal, which is picked up by a receiver. By moving his head, he is able to precisely control the robot and move the telescope and camera into any desired position.

Mr Vesey explained the advantages of this type of surgery. “Laparoscopic or keyhole surgery has many advantages over conventional open surgery. It is less invasive since small keyhole incisions are used instead of larger surgical incisions. As a consequence blood loss is less, post-operative pain is significantly reduced and recovery time is much quicker. Typically hospital stay is reduced by many days while return to full activities is considerably faster than for open surgery. The laparoscope and camera magnify the field of surgical view considerably, so in fact for prostate operations we get a better view than we do when doing the open operation. Some complex operations can last for upwards of three or more hours, therefore for the assistant holding the laparoscope and camera it can be both technically demanding and physically challenging to maintain a steady camera image for such periods of time. The robot however can do so indefinitely, and as a bonus it holds the camera perfectly still.”

Mr Vesey uses the robot in his work on urology patients. This includes doing laparoscopic radical prostatectomy operations for prostate cancer patients. Southport & Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust is currently the only hospital in the Merseyside Cancer Network performing laparoscopic prostate cancer surgery. His work also includes laparoscopic nephrectomies (kidney removal) for kidney cancers and laparoscopic surgery for other kidney diseases.

The robot, manufactured in the UK by Prosurgics is called EndoAssist. It was while it was being demonstrated at the trade exhibition section of a recent medical conference that Mr Vesey and fellow delegates were invited to enter a dexterity competition using the robot. Mr Vesey thought he would try his hand and won the competition, the prize being the loan and exclusive use of an EndoAssist robot for six months and the option to purchase it at a significantly reduced price. “It’s a wonderful tool and something we must strive to purchase,” says Mr Vesey.

Notes to Editors

Pictures show: Mr Vesey (left) in theatre with the robot and the robot in detail

Issued by Matthew King, Southport and Ormskirk Hospital NHS Trust.

Enquiries to: Matthew King Tel: 01704 704714