Robot at University Hospital Limerick gives surgery a new dimension

Fintan Walsh

Reporter:

Fintan Walsh

More than 100 surgeons and health professionals in the region got an insight into Da Vinci robotic surgery at University Hospital Limerick Picture: Sean Curtin

More than 100 surgeons and health professionals in the region got an insight into Da Vinci robotic surgery at University Hospital Limerick Picture: Sean Curtin

AS A patient rests on an operating table at University Hospital Limerick, surgeons sitting in nearby consoles guidl a four-armed robot by remote control to make the most complex tiny incisions.

With the aid of HD visuals overhead, a small probe can immerse the whole operating room in the surgical process, allowing them to see what’s happening inside the organ. Robotic surgeons at UHL have likened the experience to “standing inside the abdomen and reaching out to the organs”.

And using this camera probe, the UL Hospitals Group and its experts have a masterplan to bring these visuals to medical classrooms and hospitals locally, nationally, and soon worldwide.

And as the current technology is 2D, the UL Hospitals Group envisages that this will soon be available in 3D. 

This ambitious idea was mooted at a major conference at the Clinical Education Research Centre (Cerc) at UHL, where more than 100 of the region’s most skilled consultant surgeons and professionals viewed a live-stream of robotic surgery in action.

Studying the operation from a lecture hall at the €12.75m facility, the experts saw the Da Vinci robot in action, a gift from the Mid-Western Hospitals Development Trust, thanks to €2.6m funding from the JP McManus Benevolent Fund.

Since it was first docked in June 2016, it has operated on more than 110 patients.

The plan now, according to the UL Hospitals Group, is to roll out 360 degree live-streaming of the process, to form part of the student’s educational experience at the Graduate Entry Medical School, at UL. It will also bring about “enormous benefits” to young surgeons at the Cerc.

Foundation chair of Surgery at GEMS, Prof J Calvin Coffey said that lecture halls can ditch the powerpoint presentations and now observe “complex operations live and interact from the classroom with the surgeons in the theatre.

“They can view the anatomy of the patient close up and observe the robotic arms and instruments, providing an unrivalled educational opportunity.”

Chairperson of the South West Urological Meeting, Mr Subhasis Giri said that students will now be able to see a “robot’s eye view” of the inside of a patient, and ask practical questions to the surgeon and team in real-time.”

Mr Giri, robotic urology surgeon, said: “While technical skills are important, young surgeons also need to learn how to manage the stresses of the actual operating room. It’s difficult to learn this from a simulated environment.”

Crecora native, Colin Pierce, developed a robotic-assisted programme for colorectal surgery at UHL, and has delivered international lectures on the topic.

UL Hospitals Group CEO, Prof Colette Cowan said that the benefits to the patients “are enormous” as they substitute keyhole surgery with robotic surgery “where it’s possible” at University Hospital Limerick.