Carla Venter
2 minute read
4 Oct 2013
7:00 am

You can now be cured by a robot

Carla Venter

The next time you or someone you know lands on an operating table, you might not look into the eyes of a surgeon before you go under but into the steely gaze of a robot.

The da Vinci robotic surgery system on display at the launch on 2 October 2013 at the Urology Hospital in Pretoria. This is the first robotic surgeon in South Africa and is set to revolutionise certain surgeries. Picture: Christine Vermooten

South Africa has received its first revolutionary robotic surgery system which undertakes complex surgical procedures.

The Urology Hospital in Pretoria is the first local hospital to receive the Da Vinci robot and according to the hospital’s managing director Sarel van der Walt, will result in less blood loss, less pain and a quicker recovery.

“It is ideal for both complex and delicate surgery,” said Van der Walt. “Patients can be back on their feet in two weeks, where recovery usually takes up to six weeks,” he added on the recovery from prostate surgery.

The robot will be used to minimise invasive surgery and is ideal for the removal of the prostate gland where the target site is tightly confined and surrounded by nerves.

Dr Lance Coetzee, a prostate cancer expert, spoke at the unveiling of the robot earlier this week. “Five years ago I said to another doctor if we don’t get a robot in South Africa, we are going to become dinosaurs.”

Coetzee said they faced many hurdles from doctors, medical aids and the manufacturers. “I was also a big sceptic. I thought I could do a better job with my own two hands but today 83% of all radical prostate surgeries in the United States are done with this technology,” he said.

 

Carte Blanche presenter Derek Watts test drives the da Vinci robotic surgery system at the launch on 2 October 2013 at the Urology Hospital in Pretoria. This is the first  robotic surgeon in South Africa and is set to revolutionise certain surgeries. Picture: Christine Vermooten

Carte Blanche presenter Derek Watts test drives the da Vinci robotic surgery system at the launch on 2 October 2013 at the Urology Hospital in Pretoria. This is the first robotic surgeon in South Africa and is set to revolutionise certain surgeries. Picture: Christine Vermooten

 

Thomas Dunbar from Earth Medical helped the hospital to obtain the robot. “The training the surgeons have to undergo to use the technology is very extensive. It is not only about the actual surgery but the doctors use a simulator, much like the ones pilots use, to practice,” he said.

He added that a mind shift is needed to perform a surgery without touching the patient. “It is still surgery so we have to ensure doctors are suitably trained”.

The first procedure using the robot will be performed on October 21. “We are going beyond the limit of the human hand, next we will be going beyond the limit of the human eye,” Dunbar said.