The Royal Free Hospital has become one of the first hospitals in the country where a robot has carried out a kidney transplant.
Forty-six-year-old Vick Patel, from Finchley, was one of two patients to receive transplants from the £2 million surgical robot known as Da Vinci Xi.
But rather than having a mind of its own, the state-of-the-art machine was firmly under the control of surgeons Ravi Barod and Neal Banga, who received training in India and Belgium ahead of the surgery.
Robotic surgery consultant Mr Barod said: “A technical advantage is that the robotic instruments have a greater range of movement than the human hand, which allows us to perform the operation with more accuracy.
“The robot allows you to put the kidney in using smaller incisions, which means less blood loss, less pain, and a smaller wound, so it is less likely to become infected. All this means that the patient is likely to make a quicker recovery and return to regular activities.”
Vick, whose wife Sima was his donor, said the recovery time was much shorter than he had initially expected, which was important, especially since the couple have two daughters aged nine and ten.
He said: “Because the actual cut is smaller, I am recovering more quickly and I didn’t need as many pain killers. I just needed some paracetamol for the first few days after the operation.”
Until now the robot had only been used for kidney cancer surgery at the hospital, in Pond Street, Hampstead.
But it’s now hoped there’ll be around a dozen robot-assisted transplants each year, including for overweight patients who would not otherwise have been suitable for an open kidney transplant.
Consultant transplant surgeon Mr Banga said: "Everyone worked together to get this right for our patients – the surgeons, the nurses and the anaesthetists. I am very excited about the programme going forward - not just to improve the experience of patients but to also offer patients who would not otherwise be able to have surgery the chance of having a life-changing kidney transplant.”
A film about the surgery can be viewed here http://bit.ly/2kjg9Ua