SCOTTISH health chiefs are spending £2m on a robot originally designed for the military to perform keyhole prostate surgery.
Prostate removal – known as a “prostatectomy” – is frequently required in order to treat the early stages of cancer.
In the past the surgery involved an invasive procedure requiring a large incision and a prolonged recovery.
But now NHS bosses are spending £2m on a “da Vinci” robot capable of removing the prostate through “keyhole” cuts in the abdomen with its four spider-like arms.
It was originally developed by the US Department of Defence for use on soldiers in the battlefield, and by NASA, so earthbound doctors could operate on astronauts in orbit.
The machine is so precise it is possible for it to peel a grape, paint, and do origami – amazing procedures shown by the manufacturers in a promotional video.
The technology involved allows a doctor to control the movements of the arms – equipped with a camera and various instruments from an arcade-game like console across the room.
The plans were revealed after NHS Lothian uploaded contract information online – revealing the the robot is bound for Edinburgh’s Western General Hospital.
The contract outlines plans to spend £1.97m on the machine.
It reads: “Lothian Health Board wish to introduce a Robotic Prostatectomy Service – Robotically Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy (RALP) – only and require to purchase a surgical robot System.”
RALP is the term used to describe surgery where a robot is used to operate through a small incision.
Based on further details of the contact, the supplier is understood to be Intuitive Surgery – a Swiss company who produce a line of “da Vinci” robots
According to their website: “The da Vinci Surgical System features a 3D HD vision system for a clear and magnified view inside the patient’s body.”
“The surgeon controls the da Vinci System, which translates his or her hand movements into smaller, more precise movements of tiny instruments inside the patient’s body.
“Da Vinci technology allows surgeons to perform complex and routine procedures through a few small openings.”
The benefits of such a procedure are less pain, smaller scars and less blood loss.
Last year documents revealed that 84 robots were “employed” by the NHS across Scotland.
Robots include pharmacy drug dispensing machines and automated guidance vehicles (AGVs) – which push waste, linen and food trolleys around wards.