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University Hospital Limerick leads robotic surgery in Ireland

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Photo credit: Brian Arthur Photography

University Hospital Limerick (UHL) was the first hospital in Ireland to perform colorectal, renal and adrenal surgical procedures using a state-of-the-art robot, it was revealed today at the launch of the hospital’s robotic programme.

The Da Vinci Xi robot and equipment, valued at approximately €2.6m, was donated by the Midwestern Hospitals Development Trust and received substantial funding from the JP McManus Benevolent fund.

Midwestern Hospitals Development Trust Chairman, Jim Canny, said that this state-of-the-art robotic technology would facilitate better surgical outcomes for all patients in the Midwest requiring such surgeries.

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Photo credit: Brian Arthur Photography

“This is a great collaborative project and the Board of the Mid-Western Hospitals Development Trust are delighted to support it. We look forward to working with the Hospital and UL on projects of a similar nature in future,” he said.  

Robotic surgery represents the highest international standard of surgery worldwide and is the most advanced form of keyhole surgery available to patients, according to UHL.

Preliminary data from UL Hospitals Group demonstrates that post-operative recovery is twice as fast with robotic surgery than with standard keyhole surgery, with an average post-operative hospital stay of approximately four days. 

Foundation Chair of Surgery at UL’s Graduate Entry Medical School Professor J. Calvin Coffey was one of the pioneering surgeons for the project.

“Very early discharge is the exception rather than the rule in keyhole intestinal surgery.  It seems to be the rule rather than the exception in robotic assisted surgery,” he said.

As well as faster post-operative recovery time, there is also minimal blood loss and a reduction in post-operative pain with robotic surgery.   

Mr Michael Hanrahan, a retired Aer Rianta employee from Ennis, Co. Clare, had a tumor removed from his kidney in June this year which was the first robotic operation of its kind carried out in Ireland and was performed by Mr Subhasis Giri at UHL. 

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Photo credit: Brian Arthur Photography

 “I remember seeing the robot and thinking how is that going to operate on me? The incision was so small it was remarkable. I was delighted with my recovery, I was back playing golf in a matter of weeks,” said Mr Hanrahan

Mr Giri has conducted 20 robotic complex kidney cancer procedures and in most of them, he was able to preserve or save the kidney while removing the tumour only, thereby potentially avoiding the requirement of dialysis later in life. 

Speaking of the procedures carried out at UHL, Professor Coffey said, “We have conducted 29 cases to date in UHL predominantly for colon, rectal and kidney cases, with hugely encouraging results and a high level of patient satisfaction, we are delighted to have the Da Vinci here in Limerick.”

 The Da Vinci Xi technology provides surgeons with a highly magnified view with 3D-HD visualisation, virtually extending their eyes and hands into the patient, almost as if the surgeon were ‘standing inside the abdomen and reaching out to the organs’.

The instruments are extremely precise, with no tremor, and they can, in fact, achieve activities not possible with the human hand.

Professor Coffey said, “Up to now, robotic surgery has been embedded in the private sector, apart from gynecologic surgery. Now, for the first time, it is available to public patients in the Midwest.”

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Photo credit: Brian Arthur Photography

He explained that the dual console allows two surgeons to operate ensuring optimal decision-making and precision for each individual patient.

“It also allows for dedicated training for the surgeons of tomorrow, which to date is not available anywhere else in Ireland,” he added.

UHL now also has the ability to broadcast live surgery within the hospital right to its junior doctors on a small scale and will be able to broadcast live to the University of Limerick in the coming months.

Head of GEMS, Consultant Surgeon Professor Mike Larvin said, “It will provide a marvellous teaching tool for our students, allowing them to observe complex operations ‘live’ alongside our top surgeons using the dual teaching console which is the only one of its kind in the country.

“Hopefully this will inspire the next generation of high-tech surgeons,” he added. 

The program is also scheduled to expand to include gynaecological, endocrine and pelvic floor diseases.

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