Robots used for lung cancer surgery

Monday 9 January 2017

Lung patient Joy Barclay-Cooper with her husband John

Patients with lung cancer are now being treated with the help of robots at Guy’s Hospital.

Thoracic surgeons at the hospital recently started to perform the new procedures using Guy’s and St Thomas’ two da Vinci surgical robots.

The experts believe that when compared to conventional keyhole surgery, procedures using a robot will lead to less pain and a faster recovery for patients, while allowing more precision during the operation.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ carries out the most robotic operations in the UK with around 450 cases a year. Robotic surgery is already 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 in the same room as they look down a small camera on the end of one arm to see inside the patient. The machine gives them a 3D HD view while they operate, eliminates tremor and provides an increased range of movement, which leads to more accuracy and quicker stitching.

Mr Tom Routledge, consultant thoracic surgeon, said: “Robotic surgery allows surgeons a larger degree of movement during an operation than conventional keyhole surgery because the robot’s arms have elbows and wrists, whereas traditional keyhole surgery is like operating with chopsticks.

“Due to the extra precision the robots give us, we are able to carry out more complex procedures and patients should experience less pain, are able to go home sooner and make a faster recovery. Robotic lung surgery is mainly used to remove cancerous or benign tumours.

“At Guy’s and St Thomas’ we have one of the UK’s largest minimally-invasive lung cancer surgery teams which will be extended further by performing robotic surgery.”

Joy Barclay-Cooper, 74, was one of the first patients to have robot-assisted lung surgery. The grandmother from Worthing in West Sussex started coughing up blood when she was on holiday in Spain last spring. Tests back at her local hospital detected something on her right lung but because it was in an awkward position it was not possible to carry out a normal biopsy to analyse what it was.

Joy said: “I was referred to Mr Routledge at Guy’s who explained that robotic surgery would be the best way to access the area in my lung so that the tissue could be removed and analysed.  He was absolutely brilliant and told me all about the procedure so I felt comfortable and confident to have it.

“I feel privileged to have had this cutting-edge surgery. I only had minor incisions so the healing process was fantastic. I would truly recommend it. Shortly afterwards the team from Guy’s told me that everything worrying has been removed with a clear margin, so I don’t need any further treatment. It’s marvellous.”

Visit the NHS website for more information about lung cancer.

Last updated: March 2022

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