How robotic surgery is supporting colorectal surgeons to perform less invasive and precise surgery

Bowel cancer, also referred to as colorectal cancer, is the fourth most common cancer in the UK. Surgery remains the main treatment option, sometimes combined with chemotherapy and radiotherapy when required.

With significant advancements in the types of surgery over the years, from open, to laparoscopic and robotic, surgeons now have a greater range of treatment techniques than ever before.

Here, Mr Chelliah Selvasekar, Consultant Colorectal Surgeon at The Christie Private Care, part of HCA Healthcare UK, shares his insights into how robotic surgery is supporting colorectal surgeons to perform less invasive and more precise operations.

Surgical precision

Robotic surgery is an ever-evolving surgical technique that has been in use since the early 2000’s. As we understand more about its benefits, it is being used to operate on more and more cancers. It is particularly effective in colorectal cancer, where tumours can often be in confined areas that can be difficult to reach, and therefore require a higher level of precision and visibility during surgery. 

The technology used in robotic surgery is continually evolving, we now have 4th generation robotic surgical systems. For example, the da Vinci Xi available at The Christie Private Care and across HCA Healthcare UK, is the latest and most advanced robotic surgical system. The robotic instruments are controlled by the surgeon using a console, giving a more precise range of motion than the surgeon’s own hand and wrist. The camera used during robotic surgery provides 3-dimensional views, magnifying the area we are operating on so that we can ensure we perform the operation with the greatest accuracy which is key in cancer surgery.

This means robotic surgery can reduce some of the common surgical risks that patients face, such as blood loss and post-operative infection. The increased accuracy of the surgery means that healthy tissue and surrounding organs can be preserved, and there can also be better preservation of nerves, reducing the impact on sexual and urinary functions. Robotic surgery is a form of minimally invasive surgery, carried out via small surgical incisions, which significantly reduces post-operative pain and recovery time for patients. 

The best surgical option

For many patients, robotic surgery will be an effective and less invasive surgical option. With the increasing ability to carry out robotically-assisted complex surgery, we are now able to offer the benefits this brings to more patients than ever before. But while there are many benefits of robotic surgery, it doesn’t mean that it is the best treatment option for every patient.

When recommending the most effective surgery for you as an individual, your surgeon will consider multiple factors, including your general health, the type and size of your cancer and if the cancer has spread to other parts of your body. If you are very overweight or have had multiple abdominal surgeries before, you may not be able to have robotic surgery, but there will likely be other surgical options that your consultant can talk you through.

If you do want to consider robotic surgery you should discuss this with your medical team, or you can always ask a robotic surgeon for a second opinion. This may help to explore if this treatment option is right for you.

A whole-team approach

As a surgeon at The Christie Private Care, I am supported by a whole team of cancer specialists, from theatre nurses and anaesthetists to my medical and clinical oncology colleagues, who can provide combinations of therapies, including chemotherapy and radiotherapy, if needed. We also have colorectal Clinical Nurse Specialists, who work closely with you to understand your individual needs and provide you with practical advice and support, as well as all the other specialists who are here to support you, such as physiotherapists, dieticians and psychologists. 

We work together as a multidisciplinary team to create a personalised treatment plan for you as an individual, and this includes recommending the most effective surgical option, as well as other treatment and care.

Find out more about da Vinci Xi robotic surgery at HCA Healthcare UK