May 22, 2012

First robot assisted operation to cure the problems resulting from prolapse

A NEW high-tech robotic procedure could end the discomfort of prolapse for thousands of women.

Around three million women are affected by prolapse - where the muscles of the pelvic floor that support the vagina, womb and anus weaken and give way.

In some cases, this leads to these structures protruding out of the body which can be uncomfortable. The condition affects mostly women - around 90 per cent of cases - and one of the main causes is the long-term effects of childbirth. However, for many women a prolapse will not occur until decades after having children.

Surgery to repair a prolapse involves inserting surgical mesh about 3 centimetres by 15 centimetres into the body and using it to raise the affected organs back to their correct anatomical position.

The mesh is sutured to the front of the rectum and the back wall of the vagina and attached to the sacrum - the bone at the top of the pelvis - and acts as a scaffolding.

Traditionally this was done by open surgery - a major abdominal procedure - and more recently a key-hole version has been used.

But the new da Vinci Si robot now available at the Wellington Hospital and uses miniaturised instruments allow surgeons better access to this area with greater vision, precision, dexterity and control.

For patients it means less scarring, a shorter operation of typically three hours, a lower risk of complications and speedier recovery than traditional surgery. Most patients are in hospital for two days and recover within two to four weeks.

Colin Elton, a Consultant General, Colorectal and Laparoscopic surgeon who performs the procedure known as a Robotic Ventral Rectopexy at the Wellington Hospital, explains: "Using da Vinci, surgeons have a 3D image of the inside of a patient's body - it is very much like having your head inside the patient's abdomen.

"The robot holds the instruments and we control them from a console. It is much more precise than other operations. The mesh acts like a buttress, lifting the affected structures up.

"This is a very common problem and many women don't realise there is help out there which could transform their life."

One of the first patients to benefit from this new technique is Jacqueline Briggs, from north London. For the last five years, the 64-year-old had suffered problems of constipation and incontinence caused by a prolapse.

"I stopped playing tennis and going for long country walks with my husband and the dog in case I got caught short. I didn't like to wear a dress in case something happened. It was having a massive impact on my life," she explains.

After undergoing the procedure six weeks ago, most of the symptoms have improved and she has just six small scars on her tummy.

"Although it is a key-hole procedure, it is a big operation and is uncomfortable the days following the procedure because of all the air they pump into you so they can see inside your body," she says. "It is still early days but I have definitely noticed a difference already and I am pleased I had the operation done."

For further Press information, please contact Neil Huband on 07808 298989 0r 07808 298989.

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