Robotic Surgery Improving Patient Outcomes at University Hospital of Wales

Surgery Team

Surgeons at the University Hospital of Wales have been using a state-of-the-art da Vinci robot to operate on prostate cancer patients since 2014. Now, they’re using the same innovative technology to transform the care of kidney patients.

Powered by robotic technology, the da Vinci Surgical System allows surgeons to perform operations through several small incisions as opposed to a single large opening. Through these incisions, the da Vinci robot replicates the surgeon’s hand movements with enhanced precision and in a smaller area using tiny instruments, making the operation less invasive. 

After experiencing huge success in improving outcomes for prostate cancer patients, the surgical team developed and implemented a new surgical pathway in July 2018. This new pathway ensures that patients from across South Wales with suspected cancerous lumps on their kidneys area able to be operated on using this innovative technology.

The removal of lumps from a kidney, or part of it, (a partial nephrectomy), is a procedure that is used to remove suspected cancers while preserving the function of the kidney.

In order to preserve kidney function, the surgical team can only interrupt the blood supply to the kidney upon which they are operating for 20 short minutes. This means that they have to remove any lumps and sew the kidney back up in that very tight time limit.

This is where the precision and dexterity afforded to the surgeons by the da Vinci robot truly comes into its own.

The surgeon is able to remotely control four robotic arms, three for tiny (8mm) surgical instruments and one for a high-resolution 3D camera. As the instruments are so small, they can be inserted through keyhole incisions in the skin and move around more easily than a human hand, meaning that the surgeon can carry out the most delicate of procedures with the utmost precision.

Since introducing this procedure last year, the team have so far performed around 30 partial nephrectomies using the da Vinci robot and the reported outcomes emphasise why many perceive robotics to be the gold standard of surgery. 

The minimally invasive procedure means that the patient experiences less pain, their recovery times are much quicker and their length of stay in hospital after the procedure is just 2 days on average, as opposed to the 6 days required for the traditional open procedure.

The significant complication rate of the robotic procedure is also currently 0%, a huge improvement from the 10% rate of open surgery.

Dr Graham Shortland, Executive Medical Director of Cardiff and Vale UHB, was delighted with these outcomes, saying, “It is fantastic to see the teams developing new pathways and adapting and developing their skills with the Da Vinci robot, which was initially just used for prostatectomy.

“It is clear that advancements in technology will play a significant role in the future of sustainable healthcare as the outcomes for patients are very positive and the reduction in recovery times and length of stay truly speaks for itself.

“It very exciting that Cardiff and Vale UHB is providing leadership in this clinical area and the important advancements in surgery for patients, working with colleagues to provide this service for patients across the whole of South Wales.”

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