A Spanish hospital has successfully completed the world’s first fully robotic lung transplant.
Surgeons at Vall d’Hebron University Hospital in Barcelona used a four-armed robot called ‘Da Vinci’ to perform the procedure. The patient was a 65-year-old man named Xavier, who needed a lung transplant due to pulmonary fibrosis, a life-threatening lung disease.
Typical lung transplants are very invasive, requiring a 12-inch (30 cm) incision to be made in the chest and multiple ribs broken. This allows surgeons to access a patient’s lung, remove it, and replace it with a healthy lung from a donor.
But da Vinci allowed the surgeons to cut a much smaller entryway into the chest without breaking any bones. The new lung was deflated so that it could pass through the narrow incision, which was only 8 cm wide. Smaller incisions were made in the side of the ribs to accommodate the robot’s arms and 3D cameras – which give surgeons a 360-degree view inside the lung.
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Da Vinci robots were developed in 2000 by the American company Intuitive Surgical and are now used to treat hundreds of thousands of patients every year. The system does not perform the operation itself, but translates the hand movements of a surgeon on a console in real time.
The robot has only been used once before for a lung transplant, at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles. However, on that occasion it was only used for part of the procedure and the lung was still introduced into the chest in the traditional way.
Vall d’Hebron’s new application of the technology is less painful for the patient and reduces the risk of postoperative infection because the wound closes easily. said.
“We believe it is a technique that will improve patients’ quality of life, shorten the postoperative period and reduce pain,” said Dr. Albert Jauregui, Head of the Department of Thoracic Surgery and Lung Transplants at Vall d’Hebron University Hospital.
Due to the small size of the incision, Xavier did not take paracetamol until after surgery. Conventional lung transplants generally require postoperative treatment with much stronger opioid analgesics.
“From the moment I regained consciousness and woke up from general anesthesia, I had no more pain,” said Xavier.
Other patients on the waiting list for lung transplant surgery in Vall d’Hebron are now being offered the new technique, Jauregui said. He added that he hopes that this new approach to lung transplants will become the global standard in the future.
“This operation will not only stay in Vall d’Hebron, that’s why we’re showing it to the world, because if this technique works, and we believe it works, then it should be expanded, because the main goal is to help more people “, he said.
In the future, the transplant team wants to further refine the procedure and they predict that the first double lung transplant using this technique could take place within months.