Edinburgh hospital leading the way with Europe's first use of new keyhole surgery robot

The Western General Hospital was the first to pioneer the technology in Europe.

The surgical team, with Versius, at the Western General Hospital (Photo: NHS Lothian)
The surgical team, with Versius, at the Western General Hospital (Photo: NHS Lothian)

Robots have already taken over the manufacturing of cars and of technology and are now taking on the world of medicine, with Edinburgh at the forefront of the brave new world of surgery.

Surgeons at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh are the first in Europe to use a new robot surgeon called ‘Versius’.

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Akin to playing a video game, the robot is controlled by two joysticks which are manipulated by a surgeon rather than standing at the side of a patient during a normal open procedure.

The robot has been used in the Capital hospital for several procedures treating patients with serious bowel disease or bowel cancer.

Using three or four independent arms, which replicate human arms in size and shape, surgeons use 3D visualisations on a TV screen and joysticks to mimic their own movements and enabling precise surgery in a much less tiring way.

The keyhole surgery is completed entirely by the robot which also has the ability to rotate its ‘wrists’ in ways previously impossible.

The robot - developed by CMR Surgical - is also completely portable and can be transferred between hospital sites and operating theatres easily.

'This is the next revolution in surgical technology'

Doug Speake, a consultant colorectal surgeon with NHS Lothian, alongside consultant surgeons Hugh Paterson and Danielle Collins have been the pioneers of this technology in Edinburgh.

Mr Speake said: “This is the next revolution in surgical technology. We have gone from open surgery, to keyhole surgery, to robotic surgery. This is the future.

“It is a leap forward in surgical precision meaning patients recover faster and ultimately get home sooner. It is better for the patients and it is actually better for us.

“We were the first in Europe to use this technology. The robot puts the Western General Hospital and Edinburgh on the map as a centre for excellence and training.

“It cements our reputation as a progressive unit at the very forefront of technology, providing the highest quality, safe and effective patient care.”

Around 30 patients have received surgery using the robot with some returning home as soon as three days after their operation. The robot is also being used in Milton Keynes with more trusts expected to adopt the technology.

'We're delighted to be making history'

Dr Tracey Gillies, NHS Lothian’s medical director, said: “We are delighted to be creating history and to be at the very forefront of medical science.

“Our team at the Western General Hospital are the first in Europe and among only a handful in the world to pioneer this new type of robotic surgery.

“This is a really exciting development and is a credit to the team, who are determined to push boundaries to provide the best patient care possible.”

Robotic surgery has taken place in the UK for several years, with the American Da Vinci robot in place since 2001.