14 Surgeons and One Robot Work Simultaneously on One Cancer Surgery

The procedure, at Norwich University Hospital, cuts surgery and recovery time by almost a third.
Chris Young

In a world-first, three teams of surgeons have worked alongside a robot, carrying out three different stages of an operation at the same time so as to cut the surgery and recovery time of a cancer procedure by approximately a third. 

The impressive procedure, carried out by 14 surgeons, took place in July on a patient with advanced rectal cancer at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

The team behind the procedure hopes it will open the doors for other similar operations in which teams can work at the same time to finish faster.


'Da Vinci' robots

The robot used for the surgery was one of two Da Vinci Surgery robots that were bought at Norwich University Hospital thanks to a £1m donation from the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital’s Charity.

These robots allow surgeons to carry out procedures with incredible accuracy while creating much smaller incisions than have been traditionally needed.

As the Daily Mail reports, the procedure, a pelvic exenteration, took less than ten hours, compared to the 12 hours required when it is carried out in separate steps. 14 surgeons, split into three teams, worked simultaneously throughout the procedure.

A less invasive procedure

"Pelvic exenteration are extremely traumatic because so much tissue has to be removed," colorectal surgeon Irshad Shaikh explained to the Daily Mail. "Working together, we realized we could make the procedure less invasive and so could reduce tissue trauma significantly and blood loss."

Until now this bowel cancer operation has been done in shifts: a bowel doctor goes first, followed by a prostate specialist. Finally, plastic surgeons finish up by repairing the inevitable damage caused by the procedure.

More importantly, the patient's recovery time was only seven days, compared with the usual three weeks it typically takes for a patient to recover from this type of procedure. The team behind the operation hope their work will help inspire medical practices worldwide to continue to develop new methods for state-of-the-art robot-assisted procedures.

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