"Transformative" first in UK Robotic-Assisted Surgery launches at HCA Healthcare UK’s London Bridge Hospital

The da Vinci Single Port (SP) is a robotic-assisted surgical system that only requires one incision to undertake complex surgeries.

Today, HCA Healthcare UK (HCA UK), becomes the first healthcare provider in the UK, to offer patients access to robotic-assisted surgery using the da Vinci Single Port (SP) system. This enables complex minimally invasive surgery through only one incision.

Pioneered in the UK at London Bridge Hospital,  this innovative technology developed by Intuitive, enables surgeons access to the different tools they need for surgery on a single robotic arm through an incision smaller than 3cm.

Consultant urological surgeons Mr Ben Challacombe, Professor Chris Eden and Mr Declan Cahill are leading the introduction of this tech into the UK which will initially support patients at HCA UK undergoing surgery for urological conditions including prostate, kidney and bladder cancers.

Multi-port robotic-assisted surgery is already a standard of care for prostatectomies in the UK and is being adopted across more specialties, with da Vinci Single Port having the potential to be transformative for patients, by further reducing the post-operative discomfort of creating surgical wounds, including those who previously may not have been able to have robotic-assisted surgery. For example, those with lots of scar tissue from previous operations, or those who are unable to have multiple incisions.

These patients and others will be able to get the same benefits multi-port da Vinci systems offer, including returning home faster with less pain, less trauma and more mobility. However, da Vinci Single Port has the potential to enhance patient recovery even further.

How the da Vinci SP works

The da Vinci SP system includes three, multi-jointed, wristed instruments and a fully wristed three-dimensional (3D), high-definition (HD) camera. The instruments and the camera all emerge through an extremely flexible single cannula which enters through a single incision or natural orifice.

Once the cannula is inside the body, surgeons use the instruments they require to undertake the surgery, which are fully articulating and controlled by the surgeon from a console.

The clinical team at London Bridge Hospital has plans to extend its use across other specialties reflecting clinical practice in the US and other international robotic centres, where Single Port is used to support other complex minimally invasive procedure in other condition areas – including gynaecology, breast, thoracic and head and neck surgeries.

The da Vinci SP also brings with it the potential for surgery without incision - going through a natural orifice in the body.

As London Bridge Hospital integrates the da Vinci SP system, the focus remains on patient safety, quality and experience. By carefully considering individual needs and leveraging the strengths of both da Vinci Xi multi-port and da Vinci SP systems, surgeons at HCA UK unlock a new era of minimally invasive surgery defined by precision, customisation, and exceptional patient care.

Training for pioneering surgery

Professor Eden, Mr Cahill, and Mr Challacombe are some of the UK’s highest volume and most experienced robotic surgeons and are all proficient in robotic-assisted surgery using the da Vinci Xi (multi-port) surgical system.  The surgeons and London Bridge Hospital’s theatre team received additional training for Single Port surgery in line with Intuitive’s robotic-assisted surgical technology training programme that is accredited by the Royal College of Surgeons of England. This included simulator training followed by specialist hands-on training at a facility in Strasbourg.

The first procedures in the UK are being proctored by surgeons from the US, including Dr Simone Crivellaro, Associate Professor in Minimally Invasive Urology and the Director of Minimally Invasive Urology at University of Illinois at Chicago, who is an esteemed mentor in Single Port.

There are plans for Dr Peter Ruff, a Single Port Case Observation Host and Proctor MD at St. David’s HealthCare (a partnership with HCA Healthcare) in Texas to visit from the US to share his expertise. As of June 2022, Dr Ruff has completed over 400 Da Vinci SP robotic-assisted surgeries, one of the highest numbers in the world.

John Reay, CEO and President of HCA Healthcare UK said:

We are determined to ensure that our patients have access to choice. The ability to choose the hospitals that have the best consultants, the latest technology and the best clinical infrastructure to guide safe high-quality care. As part of this we are hugely proud to bring the da Vinci Single Port technology to the UK for the first time, adding to our robotic capability and the choice available to our patients and their surgeons.

“As part of bringing this pioneering technology to the country, we hope in time to be able to share our expertise and experience of it with others, supporting its adoption more widely in the future.”

Mr Declan Cahill, Consultant Urological Surgeon at London Bridge Hospital, part of HCA UK said:

“It’s a huge privilege to be one of the first surgeons in the UK to be using the da Vinci SP system.

“While this is not suitable for all patients, it has the potential to be transformative for some. Single Port will enable us to provide the benefits of robotic-assisted surgery including faster recovery times and reduced trauma to the body, to those whom robotic-assisted surgery may not have previously been possible.”

Professor Chris Eden, Consultant Urological Surgeon at London Bridge Hospital, part of HCA UK said:

The technology behind the da Vinci SP is fascinating. Through one port emerges four different instruments, which, when inside the body, can be used within an area the size of a grapefruit.  The potential for the da Vinci SP system to be adopted in other specialities, as we have seen in the US, is enormous, and to introduce the potential of surgery through natural orifices will give surgeons more options to best suit their patients.

“I am proud to be part of this cohort of surgeons bringing this to the UK and appreciate HCA UK for its forward-thinking approach and investment in supporting us to do this.”

Mr Ben Challacombe, Consultant Urological Surgeon at London Bridge Hospital, part of HCA UK said:

The da Vinci SP system is unique, allowing us to undertake surgery which may have not be possible before. This includes removing all or part of the prostate through the bladder, or part of a kidney via one small incision on the abdomen. As a team of three surgeons, we are very experienced in operating using the multiport approach, having carried out over 6,000 operations between us. The addition of the da Vinci SP means we have another tool in our box to offer greater choice and advantages to our patients.”

David Marante, Vice President of Intuitive UK and Ireland, makers of the da Vinci Single Port system, said:

At Intuitive, we remain dedicated to offering surgeons, care teams and hospitals new approaches for minimally invasive procedures to help them drive better outcomes for their patients.

“We believe that da Vinci Single Port offers the potential to expand access to robotic-assisted surgery to more patients. We look forward to supporting HCA London Bridge to advance their da Vinci robotic-assisted surgical program as they enter a new era of minimally invasive surgery for patients.”

HCA Healthcare UK’s robotic fleet

HCA UK’s investment in the da Vinci SP is another example of the organisation’s commitment to providing patients and the leading consultants it partners with unparalleled choice, alongside the latest advances in technology and medicine

Single Port joins HCA UK’s fleet of 8 da Vinci Xi surgical systems, which has enabled HCA UK to be the leading provider of robotic-assisted surgeries in the independent sector in the UK, having performed over 6,000 procedures using these systems.

HCA UK also brought robotic-assisted capability to the independent sector in the West Midlands for the first time, when it opened The Harborne Hospital at the beginning of 2024.

Find out more about HCA Healthcare UK's robotic surgery has to offer