We often see 3D printing technology used in collaboration with robotic surgeries…but how would you like it if the world was watching it happen? The Worldwide Robotic Surgery 24-Hour Event, by Worldwide Robotic Surgery Education (WRSE), recently took place, where the world’s top robotic surgery centers, hailing from five continents, held live broadcasts during the event, so that medical students and health professionals could watch their groundbreaking operations live online.
Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London, part of the UK’s NHS, was one of the hospitals that participated in the 24-hour event. More than that, the hospital was the only one to use 3D printing technology to assist with their live surgery, in the form of a 3D printed model.
The hospital has used 3D printing technology for the last two years, and in a groundbreaking surgery last year, Guy’s used 3D printing for the first time to aid in a kidney transplant from an adult to a child.
Professor Prokar Dasgupta, consultant urological surgeon at Guy's and St Thomas', led the NHS’ first use of 3D printing during robotic cancer surgery last year for the Worldwide Robotic Surgery event. He used a 3D printed prostate model that showed the patient’s cancer in the organ to plan the surgery ahead of time, which is exactly what he and the rest of the surgical team did for the live robotic surgery this year.
“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,” said Robert Begent, 62, from Biggin Hill in Kent, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer a few months ago.
“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.”
Guy’s typically uses its four-armed da Vinci surgical robot for bladder, kidney, and prostate removal. Surgeons control the arms from a console during the operation, and look through a small camera placed on the end of one arm to get a 3D HD view inside the patient. Robotic surgery offers an increased range of movement during the surgery, as well as completely eliminating possible tremors from a human hand. In addition, it’s minimally invasive, which equals a reduced hospital stay, less pain and scarring, and a quicker recovery for the patient.
“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,” Begent said. “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 was in charge of Begent’s robotic radical prostate removal, known as a prostatectomy, during the live broadcast. We often see 3D printed medical models used as surgical pre-planning tools, because the technology is able to use special software and data from a patient’s MRI or CT scans to print out an exact replica of the organ. Surgeons are able to get a good look at what they will be working with before they even begin a procedure, which allows them to reduce surgical risk by planning how to safely and accurately remove cancerous tumors ahead of time.
“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,” said Professor Dasgupta, who also chairs the Institute of Robotic Surgery at King’s College London. “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.”
It is the success of robotic surgeries like Begent’s, which make use of 3D printing technology, that has led to Guy’s NHS Foundation Trust’s decision to further investigate the possible surgical outcomes that can occur from using 3D printing through a national trial.
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