Meet the robot surgeon hospital bosses want to operate on Edinburgh patients

MEDICS are looking towards a state-of-the-art robot to revolutionise surgery in Edinburgh hospitals.

By Andy Shipley
Friday, 6th September 2019, 4:20 pm
The Versius is a new generation robo-surgeon
The Versius is a new generation robo-surgeon

The £427,000 Versius system would be one of the first of its kind in the UK and will be transferred between the Royal Infirmary and Western General as required.

Top surgeons will operate the multi-armed machine with joysticks for operations ranging from simple procedures to complex cancer cases if the project gets the go ahead.

Professor Alan McNeill, of The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, said:”Robot-assisted surgery utilises sophisticated instrumentation and camera systems controlled by a surgeon at a console, which allows complex operations to be performed using small incisions - keyhole surgery.

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“Until recently there was only one system - Da Vinci - in common use, but several new systems are about to be introduced within the next year or two, which are likely to be associated with lower costs.

“It is anticipated that this will be accompanied by the number of operations that can safely be carried out by keyhole surgery, thereby allowing many more people to benefit from the faster recovery associated with this type of surgery.”

Boffins only unveiled the Versius last September with the new generation technology expected to be rolled out to patients this year.

The robot, designed and built in Cambridge, is a rival to the £1.4m American da Vinci system, one of which was installed at the Western General in 2016.

Makers of the smaller Versius believe it will be more flexible and versatile than existing robots, allowing it to perform a wider range of operations.

Its independent modular arms make it quick and easy to set up, transportable between sites and economical for trusts to invest in, say designers.

Each of the robot arms has human-like flexible elbow and wrist joints controlled by a surgeon sitting at a console using two joysticks and a 3D screen.

The precision of high-tech robot systems mean they can perform keyhole surgery with special instruments through small incisions.

Medics say this causes less pain and faster recovery for patients compared to conventional surgery.

Leading surgeons are also afforded a better magnified view and increased dexterity by the systems.

Robot makers say it can take even the best surgeons 80 hours to learn how to stitch-up keyhole surgery wounds - and some never master it.

But it takes just half-an-hour to teach the skill using Versius - meaning more surgeons can perform keyhole surgery.

And its makers believe an experienced surgeon could operate up to eight hours a day instead of two with the help of Versius - meaning more patients can be treated.

The robot also stores data on each operation so surgeons can review and refine their technique.

“The Versius system has the potential to be transformative,” CMR Surgical’s chief medical officer, Mark Slack, told its website.