Robotic cancer surgery at CSTAR a Canadian first

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For the first time in Canada, a patient has had his prostate removed with the help of a robot. It’s another first in research for CSTAR (Canadian Surgical Technologies & Advanced Robotics) and its four-armed da Vinci robot, one of only 11 in the world. The robot was used throughout the surgery to complete a radical prostatectomy, which is the surgical removal of the prostate and standard treatment for selected patients with prostate cancer – the most common form of cancer in Canadian men.

The surgery, performed by Dr. Joseph Chin, and assisted by urologists Dr. Stephen Pautler and Dr. Patrick Luke, was completed April 2 at the University Campus of London Health Sciences Centre. At a console several feet from the patient, Dr. Chin was guided by the da Vinci robot’s 3-dimensional imaging and removed the prostate by manipulating the robotic arms, which were inserted through small 2-inch incisions in the lower abdomen.

The surgery is part of a pilot study at CSTAR that will evaluate the role of surgical robotics in the management of prostate cancer. Researchers also hope to determine if robotic-assisted surgery will lead to faster recovery of urine control and reduced risk of erectile dysfunction, which are common in patients who have their prostate removed.

“Due to the fact that this surgery was robotic-assisted and minimally invasive, the patient can expect a faster recovery, less post-operative pain and less blood loss,” says Dr. Joseph Chin, chief of urology at London Health Sciences Centre, associate scientist with Lawson Health Research Institute, and chair of the division of urology at The University of Western Ontario. Chin adds, ” For the surgeon, the robot provides much better visualization, magnification, and improved dexterity, which all translates into greater surgical accuracy overall.”

“When the surgeon first talked to me about being operated on with the help of a robot, I was a little apprehensive, but when I actually saw the robot just before my surgery I was fascinated by it,” says the patient, Archie Laidlaw of Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. The 63-year old dentist also says, “I have had a great recovery, much faster than I thought, and that has allowed me to return to work much sooner.”

Research at CSTAR is supported by grants from the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Government.

CSTAR is a collaborative research program of London Health Sciences Centre and the Lawson Health Research Institute, and is affiliated with The University of Western Ontario. CSTAR occupies the top two levels of the new Legacy Research Pavilion at the University Campus of London Health Sciences Centre in London, Ontario.