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April 4, 2008
By JOHN MINER, SUN MEDIA
London is moving from robotic-surgery pioneer to national training centre as hospitals adopt the technology that some dismissed as “just toys” a couple of years ago.
“There was always skepticism, but it is clear the coin dropped in the last year,” said Dr. Christopher Schlachta, medical director of the Canadian Surgical Technologies and Advanced Robotics centre in London.
For years, London was able to boast it was home to two out of three Da Vinci surgical robots in Canada, scoring a number of national firsts — including using the robot to perform coronary bypass surgery, prostectomies and radical hysterectomies.
Hospitals in Vancouver, Edmonton, Toronto and Montreal now have the $3-million to $4-million robots and at least another five have been ordered by hospitals.
Schlachta said the surgical robots wouldn’t be gaining in popularity if the medical teams in London hadn’t proven their value.
Almost 500 robotically assisted surgeries have now been performed in London at London Health Sciences Centre and St. Joseph’s Health Care.
Guided by a surgeon working at a nearby console, the robot allows surgery to be performed in very tight spaces through small holes in the patient’s abdomen.
Patients who receive the robotic surgery spend less time recovering in hospital and are are able to return to work sooner, Schlachta said.
He predicted all academic health centres in Canada will eventually buy the robots and some community hospitals.
Both patients and surgeons are going to demand robotic surgery in the future, he said.
“It will be difficult to recruit surgeons using minimally invasive surgery in the future if you don’t have the robot,” he said.
Other centres, including Vancouver and Toronto, have turned to London for training and mentoring their surgical teams in using the technology, said John Parker, director of CSTAR.
“The nation is acknowledging London is the de facto leader in this technology,” Parker said.