The robot helps clinicians to operate across a wide array of specialities including urology, head and neck, gynaecology, transplant and gastrointestinal surgery. Last year, the Standard reported how surgeons at the trust used the robot to perform a week’s worth of operations in a single day.
Over the past 20 years, the Trust has expanded its robotics programme and now operates five da Vinci robots. Guy’s and St Thomas’ initially started using one of the early da Vinci systems to perform urological surgery, led by urological consultant Professor Prokar Dasgupta.
Ben Challacombe, clinical lead for robotic surgery at Guy’s and St Thomas’, told the Standard: “Almost all prostate, kidney and lung cancer surgery is now completed robotically at our Trust. Several complex operations have been pioneered at Guy’s and St Thomas’, having never been performed with standard key-hole surgery techniques.
“We have an excellent professional team around the machines themselves including anaesthetists, dedicated robotic assistants and nurses, and highly experienced surgeons.”
Terry Wright, 63, from Canterbury, was one of the first patients to have robotic surgery. He was diagnosed with aggressive prostate cancer and was 45 when he had a radical prostatectomy to remove his prostate gland and surrounding lymph nodes.
He said: “I found out the da Vinci was being trialled at Guy’s Hospital and wrote to Professor Dasgupta to see if he’d take me on. I had to get sign off from my GP who knew nothing about robotic surgery at the time!
“It had really good reviews in America where they’d already been using it, particularly in terms of how people recovered after the operation.”
He added: “My life expectancy if the cancer spread was 3 to 5 years. I was very focused on getting it done and getting it out.
“I was a similar age to my mother when she died from breast cancer which really focused my mind. I had two young children and I didn’t want the same thing to happen to them.
“My daughter is now 31 and has just had our first grandchild. I’m still fit and healthy. We live each day as best and to the full as we can. Everything is absolutely fantastic. I moved on and carried on with life.”
Guy’s and St Thomas’ also carried out the first paediatric robotic surgical procedure for testicular cancer in the UK in 2021.
Prof Dasgupta said: “When we started robotic surgery 20 years ago we didn’t really know how big the service was going to grow. From one early robotic system to the largest programme in the UK, we have come such a long way and helped so many of our patients.”
He added: “It has reduced the length of in-patient stay, blood loss and complications are lower and recovery times are quicker. All prostate cancer procedures (radical prostatectomy) at Guy’s and St Thomas’ are now robotic.
“In the UK, we have gone from 1 per cent 20 years ago to 94 per cent currently for this procedure. This change will happen for other procedures with time.
“With more players on the market there will be much greater adoption within the NHS.”
Prof Dasgupta added that the benefit to patients was “very significant” as the operations also shorten recovery times.
“For some operations, the hospital stay has reduced from a week to a single day. The return to work is significantly quicker with societal benefits.”
David Marante, UK Regional Director of Intuitive, the maker of the da Vinci robotic-assisted surgical system, said: “We’d like to congratulate the team at Guy’s and St Thomas’ who now join a small and accomplished group of hospitals globally that have pioneered the use of our da Vinci technology to advance robotic-assisted surgery and reach this incredible milestone of 10,000 da Vinci cases.
“It has been a privilege for us to work with the team as their da Vinci programme has expanded to ensure more patients have access to minimally invasive surgery.”