Pioneering cancer surgery is broadcast live to the world

Thursday 30 November 2017

Patient Robert Begent and Professor Prokar Dasgupta

Surgeons at Guy’s Hospital invited the world into their operating theatre when they took part in an international live robotic surgery event this week.

Guy’s was the only hospital to use 3D printing to assist a procedure during the Worldwide Robotic Surgery 24-Hour Event on Monday 27 November. The annual event saw the world’s leading robotic centres broadcast their pioneering operations from five continents to health professionals and medical students watching online across the globe.

Professor Prokar Dasgupta, consultant urological surgeon at Guy’s and St Thomas’, led the robotic radical prostatectomy (prostate removal) which took place during the event.

3D printing creates an exact replica of the patient’s prostate using images from an MRI scan and specialised software. The 3D model allows surgeons to pinpoint exactly where the cancer is situated within the prostate and means they can plan in advance how to remove the cancer safely and accurately, while preventing damage to important nerves nearby.

Robert Begent, 62, from Biggin Hill in Kent, was diagnosed with prostate cancer eight weeks ago. He said: “I went to my GP on my wife’s advice after I started to notice symptoms. It was lucky I did because a blood test strongly indicated that I had prostate cancer.

“It’s been a rollercoaster because everything has happened very quickly since my diagnosis and I was referred to Guy’s for my procedure within weeks. I’ve had really good care from the NHS.

“I was happy for my operation to be filmed and it was good to know that it would help surgeons around the world and, therefore, the patients that they treat. Professor Dasgupta explained all about the procedure and how the 3D printed model would be used. He showed me the model of my prostate, and where the bad bits were, before my procedure. It’s all new to me but it’s great that something like this can be used to give surgeons more detail and help them to carry out the surgery effectively, so it was very reassuring to know it would be part of my operation.”

Professor Dasgupta, who also chairs the Institute of Robotic Surgery at King's College London, said: “The 3D model allowed me to decide how best to make sure that the cancer was removed successfully while vital nerves were kept intact, which is a fine balance. Having the model meant I could virtually hold Robert’s prostate in my hand before surgery.

“Through the model, I can feel the tumour and see how close it is to vital nerves and muscles, allowing me to plan the operation with detailed precision and accuracy. The 3D model restores the sense of touch that the surgeon loses by using robotic surgery.

“Robert’s procedure went very well - the tumour was removed successfully and he should make a good recovery. We are thankful to him for allowing us to share his surgery with the world.”

Robotic surgery is most commonly used for prostate, bladder and kidney removal at the Trust. During a robotic procedure, surgeons control the robot’s four ‘arms’ from a console. They look down a small camera on the end of one arm to see inside the patient and the machine gives them a 3D HD view while they operate, eliminates tremor and provides an increased range of movement. Robotic surgery is minimally invasive, which means less pain and scarring for patients, with a quicker recovery and shorter hospital stay.  

3D printing has been in use at Guy’s and St Thomas’ since 2015. Last year Professor Dasgupta pioneered the first use of 3D printing during robotic cancer surgery in the NHS. The Trust is about to embark on a national trial to investigate the outcomes of using 3D printing technology.

Find out more about prostate cancer at NHS Choices.

Last updated: March 2022

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