Robotic surgeons have started to be used at Barts Health NHS trust after receiving multi-million pound funding.
Seven departments at The Royal London and St Bartholomew’s hospitals will now be operating on patients using £5.5m funded da vinci robots from Barts Charity.
The surgical machines are the UK’s only dedicated robot which treats the heart, lungs and chest.
Using a computer console situated beside the patient, surgeons operate by moving the robot’s ‘arms’ which hold surgical instruments.
The surgeon remains in control of the robot at all times using their hands and feet at the console, while a member of the surgical team stays at the patient’s side observing the surgery.
The new robots mean patients will be treated with minimally invasive surgery with several small incisions made instead of one big cut.
Previously some procedures may have been deemed too risky for patients however the robots allow for less blood loss, less pain, faster recovery and faster patient discharge.
The new technology has been welcomed by surgeons who said the da vinci robot provides more flexibility and control.
This is achieved though the robot’s ability to rotate its arms 360 degrees in seven dimensions, setting it apart from human surgeons.
Chrissie Lefranc, 68 from Hornchurch in Essex, was one of the first patients to be treated at St Bartholomew’s.
Lefranc, who had a cyst removed from her left lung at the end of November, said she had been living with a ‘ticking time bomb’ and thanked surgeons.
Kelvin Lau, who was the surgeon behind the robot, said the new technology would transform care.
“Unfortunately some people are too frail for open surgery so, for example, in some cancer cases our only choice would previously have been radiotherapy which isn’t as effective as surgery,” Lau said.
“The da vinci suddenly expands the number of people able to have surgery, as well as proving particularly effective in those who have tumours in places that are difficult to reach.”
Teams at The Royal London Hospital aim to use its da vinci robot on 500 patients across each year by 2020 across six specialities – Gynae-oncology, urology, colorectal, hepatobiliary, transplant and head and neck surgery.
Robotic surgery is not the first piece of pioneering technology that has been used at Barts.
In October, virtual reality helped surgeons from across the world jointly operate on a bowel cancer patient at The Royal London Hospital.