HEALTH: ‘Robotic Surgery saved my life’, says cancer patient

By Lucy Ashton

A patient in a hospital which serves West Dunbartonshire and Helensburgh has praised NHS staff after undergoing robotic surgery that she claims saved her life.

Deborah Speirs, 46, was diagnosed with stage three bowel cancer in March 2021 and, thanks to the innovative surgery and a dose of chemotherapy, she has now been given the all-clear.

Following a consultation with Professor Campbell Roxburgh, a surgeon at the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow,  Deborah decided to opt for the innovative surgery over the conventional method.

Deborah is grateful for all the care she received at the GRI, but she is convinced that the robotic surgery saved her life.

She said: “I cannot thank the staff at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde enough for all the help, care and treatment they provided for me.

“When you are told you are diagnosed with cancer, it takes a while for this to really sink in as you never think it is going to happen to you.

“I had never heard about it this type of procedure before. An operation is a scary word in itself and I never thought anything about a robot being directed by a surgeon.

“I met with Professor Roxburgh and he explained everything in detail and I was happy to go ahead with it.

“The technology is amazing and I was up and walking around in a matter of days after my surgery. I wanted to start hoovering when I got home from hospital but my daughter made sure I rested up. It just shows you how great this is for recovery.

“In what was a very traumatic and difficult time for me and my family, I genuinely think that robotic surgery has saved my life.”

Deborah’s daughter Antonia, Deborah’s dad Thomas, Deborah, Deborah’s partner Paul.

More than 60 doctors are trained in the use of robotic surgery systems across NHS Scotland, with 15 machines in operation. NHSGGC offers robotic surgery across multiple specialities including colorectal, urology, gynaecology and head and neck surgery, at both the GRI and Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

The robotic systems have four arms that hold a camera and the surgical tools. A surgeon controls the robotic system from the surgeon console, which is in the operating theatre.

The systems allow doctors to use tiny wristed instruments that move like a human hand, but with a greater range of motion. The precision of the surgery can reduce the amount of time patients are required to stay in hospital post-surgery.

Professor Roxburgh said: “Robotic surgery has already shown huge improvements in patient care and recovery times. It is not complete devolution of the surgery to a robot and the surgeon still has absolute control of everything that is going on. What we are adding, is that we are using a console that controls instruments and these go in through robotic ports.

“We have seen a halving in the length of time patients are required to stay in hospital in comparison to conventional key hole surgery as it is less invasive.

“In addition to this, it helps have reduce complications, imaging assessments, blood transfusions readmission rates and infections.

“Deborah is just one example of a number of successful surgeries using this type of equipment.”

Neil McCallum, director for NHSGGC’s North Sector, said: “This innovative technology allows us to reduce the amount of time a patient has to stay in hospital following their surgery.

“At a time when we are facing increased pressures, it is great to highlight the extraordinary work our teams are undertaking and this procedure will enable us to treat more patients more quickly, and with better outcomes.

“I would like to thank our teams who are continuously going over and above to provide the best possible treatment and care for our patients.”

David Marante, Regional Director at Intuitive, the maker of the da Vinci surgical systems used by surgeons and their teams at NHSGGC, said: “The progress that has been made at NHSGGC over the past 18 months is a huge accomplishment and is testament to the commitment of the team to expand robotic-assisted surgery so that more patients will have access to minimally invasive care with our technology.

“Our continued focus is to provide technology training to more surgeons, trainees and care teams across Scotland as they grow their da Vinci robotic programmes with the aim of further reducing rates of open surgery to improve patient outcomes and lower the total cost of care.”

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