Guy's is the only UK centre in world robotic surgery event

Wednesday 16 November 2016

Surgeon Mr Ben Challacombe and patient Jacqueline Nelson

Surgeons at Guy’s Hospital had the whole world watching them when they operated on a patient during an international live robotic surgery event.

Guy’s was the only hospital in the UK to be involved in the Worldwide Robotic Surgery 24 Hour Event on Monday 14 November, which saw 14 of the world’s leading robotic centres on five continents broadcast their pioneering operations to around 27,000 health professionals watching online.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ carries out the most robotic operations in the UK with around 450 cases a year, using two da Vinci surgical robots. Both of them are dual console robots, with two seats, so they are often used for training. Robotic surgery is commonly used for prostate, bladder and kidney removal.

Mr Ben Challacombe, consultant urological surgeon at Guy’s and St Thomas’, led the robotic partial nephrectomy (partial kidney removal) which took place during the event. It was the first live robotic partial nephrectomy in the UK.

Patients who have a small tumour in their kidney are suitable for a partial nephrectomy. By removing only part of the kidney, most of it can be saved.

NHS England has recently endorsed robotic surgery as a new way to perform a partial nephrectomy. The team at Guy’s perform around 70 cases a year and have carried out more than 300 to date.

Jacqueline Nelson, 55, from Canvey Island in Essex, was seen by doctors at her local hospital after noticing blood in her urine in July. Scans found that she had a tumour measuring around 3cm in her left kidney.

Jacqueline, a pharmacy technician, said: “It was a real shock to find out I had a tumour but I was assured that kidney cancer is usually curable once the tumour is taken away.

“Surgeons at my local hospital were only able to remove it using keyhole surgery and, because the tumour was in an awkward position, it meant my whole kidney would need to be taken away. I was told the only way to remove part of the kidney was using robotic surgery so I was referred to Mr Challacombe at Guy’s.

“I was really pleased to be able to have the robotic procedure because I would have worried about something happening to my other kidney if I needed the whole kidney removed. This means more of the kidney where I had the tumour has been preserved, so I am very grateful to the team at Guy’s and for the opportunity to have this cutting-edge type of surgery.”

Mr Challacombe said: “Robotic partial kidney removal has several benefits for patients over both standard keyhole and open surgery, including less time in hospital, faster recovery times and less pain. We can make smaller incisions to remove the part of the kidney, avoiding larger cuts and more scarring. When we use the robots, we effectively have our hands inside the patient without open surgery.”

During a robotic procedure, surgeons control the robot’s ‘arms’ from a console as they look down small telescopes on the end of each arm to see inside the four keyhole incisions. The machine gives them a 3D HD view while they operate, eliminates tremor and provides an increased range of movement, which leads to more precision and quicker stitching.

Mr Challacombe said: “We can perform the key part of the procedure in less time using the robot, so this reduces the time that blood flow to the kidney is stopped while the tumour is removed. Consequently there is less damage to the kidney, keeping it functioning better after the operation, and more of the kidney can be preserved.

“The procedure went well - the tumour was removed successfully and Jacqueline should now make a good recovery. We really appreciate her letting us share her experience with the world during the broadcast.”

For more information about kidney cancer visit NHS Choices

Last updated: March 2022

Contact us

Media enquiries
Phone: 020 7188 5577
Email: [email protected]