UWI surgeons perform Caribbean’s first robotic surgeries

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    A group of surgeons from The UWI St Augustine Campus have carried out what has been hailed as “the first series of robot-assisted surgeries in the Anglophone Caribbean”.

    The procedures, part of a collaborative initiative with local and international partners, is a significant step forward in surgical technology for the region.

    On September 20, a six-member UWI surgical team performed three keyhole surgeries with the assistance of a surgical robot in an operating theatre at the Port of Spain General Hospital.

    The procedures were facilitated by medical company AA Laquis; Imperial Medical Solutions and Freehand, two UK-based medical technology firms; and with support from the UK Department of International Trade.

    The surgeries were the result of several months of planning and are part of an initiative that also includes surgeons at the Faculty of Medical Sciences at The UWI Mona Campus in Jamaica.

    The “Trinidad Six”, piloted a CoBOT (short for Collaborative Robot) with support from experts from the region and beyond, while performing the surgeries, a medical first for the region.

    The Freehand Panorama CoBOT is owned by AA Laquis.

    “This technology can be used in any keyhole or laparoscopic surgery where a camera is inserted into a patient through a small incision, providing the surgeon with a view inside the body,” a statement from AA Laquis explained.

    Keyhole/laparoscopic surgery involves operations in the abdomen or pelvis using small incisions with the aid of a camera. This minimally invasive type of modern surgery has several, most notably less pain and faster recovery for the patient. Professor Dan and his team at UWI have been regional pioneers of this type of surgery.

    The CoBOT can makes these procedures even more efficient.

    “Usually, a human assistant will hold the camera and react to verbal instructions from the surgeon,” the statement from AA Laquis said. “As the name suggests, the Freehand CoBOT offers a ‘free hand’ since the camera is now brought under the direct control of the surgeon, providing a 360º, tremor-free image, and complete control of their surgical environment.”

    The CoBOT has been used in more than 15,000 surgeries in Europe, the US, and Australia.

    Phase two of the project is scheduled to take place in Jamaica, led by a UWI team at the Mona Campus headed by Professor Joseph Plummer and surgical lead Dr Roy McGregor. The project will expand into more complex cases and “fine tune” issues identified by the Trinidad team.