First NHS use of 3D printing for robotic surgery

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Prokar and 3D model - ES

Surgeons at Guy’s and St Thomas’ have pioneered the NHS’s first use of 3D printing to enhance the precision and accuracy of robotic cancer surgery.

By printing a 3D model of a patient’s cancerous prostate, surgeons were able to see and feel his tumour before surgery so they could plan the most precise robotic removal.

Consultant urological surgeon Professor Prokar Dasgupta, whose idea it was to combine the technologies of 3D printing and robotic surgery, showcased the innovation as his team took part in the Worldwide Robotic Surgery 24 Hour Event on Monday 23 May.

The operation was watched online by surgeons and medical students during the event that saw 15 of the world’s leading robotic centres broadcast their operations from four continents.

Professor Dasgupta, who also chairs the Institute of Robotic Surgery at King's College London, says: “By using the 3D printed model I am able to hold the patient’s prostate in my hand before we operate. I can feel the tumour, I can see how close it is to vital nerves and muscles, and this allows me to plan the operation with detailed precision and accuracy.

“There are so many benefits to robotic surgery but, by using the robot, a surgeon loses his touch. The 3D model returns my touch and eliminates an element of guesswork.”

Robotic surgery has many benefits for patients. It is minimally invasive, which means less pain and scarring, with a quicker recovery and shorter hospital stay.  

Consultant urological surgeon Mr Ben Challacombe was watching the surgery to ensure the patient’s safety was paramount at all times during the live broadcast.

He says: “This is a very exciting time to be involved in robotics and 3D printing. We have technology at our fingertips to provide the best procedure for our patients.

“The Worldwide Robotic Surgery 24 Hour Event is a great day. We believe passionately in supporting surgical education by broadcasting live surgery, as long as it’s done safely.”

An MRI scan of the patient’s prostate was used by the team to print the 3D model. As well as helping surgeons with planning and accuracy, 3D printing also helps patients to better understand their procedure.

Just one day after his surgery, the patient, a 65-year-old GP, was able to get out of bed and go for a walk.

3D printing has been in use at Guy’s and St Thomas’ for just over a year. Last year a team at the Trust pioneered the world’s first use of 3D printing to aid a successful kidney transplant from an adult to a child.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ has two da Vinci surgical robots and carries out the most robotic operations in the UK – with more than 400 cases a year. 

Professor Dasgupta established the robotic surgery programme at Guy’s and St Thomas’ in 2004. It is now the largest programme in the UK, training two full-time surgical fellows and more than 50 visiting surgeons a year.

Last updated: March 2022

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