Remote Catheter Manipulation System's Robotic Arms Succesfully Performed Surgery on Kenneth Crocker 8:51 PM, Posted by admin speedytown , Subscribe to feed reader here

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The painstaking procedure is normally performed by hand and exposes surgeons to dangerous levels of radiation from more than 250 X-rays to monitor the location of the probe for up to eight hours.

But Mr Crocker's ground-breaking operation was completed in just one hour yesterday and hailed an 'enormous success' by British doctors.

It is the first time that the procedure - the same performed on Tony Blair by hand in 2004 - has been carried out by a fully remote-controlled robot anywhere in the world, it was claimed.

Mr Crocker, a retired postal worker from Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, had suffered from an irregular heartbeat for four years.

Before going into theatre, he said: 'Somebody always has to be the first to try something and I've always had a sense of adventure.

'I've been very excited about the operation for weeks. It's a little bit of extra magic being the first in the world.

'I tried cardioversion, which is electric shock therapy, and different medicines to get rid of the problem but so far nothing has worked.

'I've seen the robotic arm and it's an impressive piece of kit. I'd like to shake hands with it after when I'm cured but maybe that won’t be possible.'

Consultant cardiologist Dr AndrĂ© Ng (both corr) carried out yesterday's surgery using the Remote Catheter Manipulation System, a £350,000 robotic arm made in New Jersey, USA.

A 6mm-wide catheter fitted with a pinhole camera and light was inserted into Mr Crocker's groin using keyhole surgery.

Dr Ng then used the mechanical arm and a TV monitor to control its journey through the body using two buttons - one for direction and one to move forwards and backwards.

The catheter gyrates on the end of the robot's arm when it detects fibres on the heart's surface that cause the irregular rhythm.

Radio frequencies are then blasted down the catheter to perform an 'ablation', burning away the faulty fibres.

This corrects the flow of electrical currents through the organ and restores a regular heartbeat.

The system enables the six-man team - including a cardiologist, his assistant, two radiographers and two technicians - to perform the procedure in almost half the time of the traditional method.

The technique could be used to treat up to 50,000 Britons diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat each year, Dr Ng said, reducing strokes and heart failure.

A shortage of skilled clinicians mean only one in ten victims of the condition - called atrial (corr) flutter or atrial fibrillation - are currently treated using catheter ablation.

Dr Ng said: 'Surgeons receive a phenomenal amount of radiation during these kind of heart operations. But with the mechanical arm I can do the same operation from the safety and comfort of the control room.

'This is the first time in the world that the operation has been performed using this fully robotic arm.

'The catheter is programmed to perform exactly the same movements as I would manually which makes it just as precise.

'There's also the added benefit that the operations are sped up and more can be carried out because surgeons are not as tired.

'Heart rhythm treatment procedures are very common in people of all ages and there are hundreds of different conditions.

'If you think about the potential of robotic operations in a Star Trek world, then in a few years we could do the entire operation by just pushing a button.'

Speaking after the operation as Mr Crocker recovered on a ward, Dr Ng said the procedure was a success.

He said: 'Everything went very well. The critical moment was at the end when the patient's heart returned to a normal rhythm.

'There was a loud cheer from everybody taking part. It was a very exhilarating feeling for me to be the first person to use this equipment.

'The patient's heart will now have a regular rhythm for the rest of his life. That's a job well done for me. It is a massive breakthrough in surgery and hopefully many more patients will benefit from it.'

Medics performed a similar operation at St Mary's Hospital in London in 2007.

But the Sensei device used then was only semi-robotic as it required a surgeon to manipulate the catheters manually with complex controls.

Ian Rankin, from UK robot supplier Dot Medical, said: 'The catheters which performed the ablation in the Sensei system are fed through the catheter and controlled by hand, from either inside theatre or using a network controls on the outside.

'The difference with this robot is that the wires go straight into the patient's body. They are then controlled with two buttons - one for the direction of the catheter and one for it to go in and out.'


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