Newcastle specialist Dr Mahesh Dhanjee recently qualified as one of only two doctors in the province who is able to perform potentially life-saving cancer surgery using a robot.
Newcastle specialist Dr Mahesh Dhanjee recently qualified as one of only two doctors in the province who is able to perform potentially life-saving cancer surgery using a robot.

Robotics a success in prostate surgery

By Nosipho Mngoma Time of article published Aug 3, 2018

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Durban - A Newcastle doctor has become one of only two urologists in the province who are qualified to perform robotic prostate surgery.

Dr Mahesh Dhanjee said, unlike in open surgery to remove the prostate in cancer patients, using the robot means a much shorter stay in hospital and a faster recovery time for patients.

“The need for a blood transfusion is almost 0%. Patients can leave the hospital within 24 to 48 hours instead of a week, and can take out the catheters in seven days rather than 21. There is also a lesser chance of the potency being affected and them suffering from incontinence,” he said.

Dhanjee decided to specialise because he has a passion for urology, as it treats both males and females and people of all ages.

“Everything in life, as in medical science, is evolving at very rapid pace. You either keep up or get left behind. People may think of Newcastle as the platteland but we offer the same service that you could get anywhere in the country, so I actively seek out new and emerging technology, innovations and methods.

“It not only refines my skills as a surgeon but also helps me help my patients make informed decisions about their treatment, and become more adept at assuming control of their health and well-being,” he said

Robotic surgery was introduced in South Africa about five years ago and currently only targets prostate cancer.

“In robotic surgery, the patient is prepped with small incisions through which instruments enter the body. The surgeon then does the operation remotely, with the use of a control console,” Dhanjee said.

“The surgeon has a 3D, magnified view inside the patient’s body, and the operation is done with very small, wristed instruments that bend and rotate far greater than the human hand. It works by translating the surgeon’s hand movements into precise movements of the tiny instruments inside the patient’s body.”

Dhanjee underwent a gruelling year of training, initially on a simulator, then travelled to Istanbul in Turkey for practical training before attempting the surgery using the robot, under the supervision of a UK-trained surgeon.

“The training is quite a process. It takes a lot of time and financial investment in that you take away time from your practice,” he said.

Having completed it, he said he had no regrets despite the fact that he has to perform the robotic-assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomies in Joburg.

As there are only two urologists in KwaZulu-Natal who can use the robot, it was not financially viable to keep the R25million machine in the province, he said.

“The stigma surrounding men’s health is slowly dissipating - more and more men are aware of the dangers of prostate cancer and are choosing to get themselves screened earlier. If prostate cancer is detected early, like most cancers, it can be cured,” said Dhanjee.

The Mercury

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