A four-armed surgeon robot first developed to treat prostate disease is now being widely used in England to treat lung cancer. The innovation has allowed patients to leave hospital within two days of surgery, suffering only minimal post-operative pain.
The robot, called da Vinci, is activated by a doctor who operates a camera and a surgeon who manipulates the robot's arms from a console using a joystick and foot pedals.
The machine locates and removes tumors without pressing on patients' ribs as it reaches and grabs the tumor. This pressing is the major cause of operative pain in traditional laparoscopic or keyhole, lung surgery.
"This is a huge advance in lung-cancer treatment with a clear advantage for patients," cardiothoracic consultant Sasha Stamenkovic from Newcastle Hospital Trust, England, was quoted as saying.
Stamenkovic's team has performed 30 lung operations using the robot in the past year and will present its findings at the World Congress of Cardiothoracic Surgeons in September.
He said the Newcastle Hospital Trust, which has two of the machines, bought for about 1.2 million pounds (about $1 million) each two years ago, is also using them to operate on prostate, gynaecological, liver, ENT and colorectal cancer patients.
The da Vinci gives surgeons a high-definition view of a patient's organs in 3D via a screen inside the control console.
During the past two years, it has become a favored option in Britain for removing prostate tumors, which are difficult to eliminate using traditional keyhole surgery. Intuitive Surgical, da Vinci's California-based manufacturer, has reportedly sold 3,317 of the robots worldwide to date.