The granddaddy of the surgical robots has now entered the doors of the public sector in Africa, with Groote Schuur becoming the first public sector hospital to use a robot to perform surgeries.
The da Vinci Xi is the fourth generation of the da Vinci and is designed as a minimally invasive approach to large-incision abdominal surgeries. The robot is designed by Intuitive Surgical, an American corporation that has been leading in developing robotic systems for health.
Intuitive Surgical says the robot has been optimised for complex, multi-quadrant surgeries.
The hospital will become the first public hospital to perform robotic surgery, as it launched the Da Vinci Xi fourth generation robot on Wednesday to be used in theatres.
The Xi is designed for an improved user (surgeon) experience and ease of use. New features include: A new overhead instrument arm architecture designed to facilitate anatomical access from virtually any position. A new endoscope digital architecture that creates a simpler, more compact design with improved visual definition and clarity.
An ability to attach the endoscope to any arm, providing flexibility for visualising the surgical site. Smaller, thinner arms with newly designed joints that offers a greater range of motion than ever before. Longer instrument shafts are designed to give surgeons greater operative reach.
The Xi is also compatible with Intuitive's Firefly Fluorescence Imaging System, which uses near infra-red imaging, along with standard endoscopic light to enable surgeons to perform minimally-invasive surgery as well as visual assessments of vessels, blood flow, and tissue perfusion.
The robot forms an important step towards taking South Africa’s hospitals into the 4th industrial revolution. This process will bring health innovation and complications. The SA health sector will also have to prepare for challenges associated with using robots in hospitals.
The robotic system has been plagued by lawsuits associated with using the robot in hospitals. Intuitive Surgical's October 2013 quarterly earnings report noted at least 50 da Vinci lawsuits where plaintiffs alleged serious and sometimes fatal complications from da Vinci procedures as a result of product defects or issues with the way the company trains surgeons to use the robot.
A November 2013 FDA survey echoed this sentiment, with all respondents reporting that da Vinci's complex user interface creates a big challenge in learning how to use the device.
As Groote Schuur gets ready to make use of the robot, the training of medical professionals will have to receive serious attention to ensure life-saving surgeries.