Home in a day after robotic cancer surgery

A surgical robot at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge is helping to cure patients with prostate cancer, enabling them to go home less than 24 hours after surgery.

robot in operation

This the shortest hospital stay in the UK for the procedure, known as a robotic prostatectomy, and is being carried about five times a week in the Day Surgery Unit at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (CUH). 

The robot is operated by a highly skilled surgeon and removes cancerous tissue by making several small incisions in the patient’s abdomen.  Not only is this less invasive, with less blood loss and pain, it means patients recover more quickly from their surgery.

In the past with open surgery, the procedure needed a hospital stay of round 4-5 days.  Now patients are able to go home the next day, freeing up bed space so more patients can be treated, helping to reduce waiting times and cancellations.   

Mr Ben Lamb is a consultant surgeon at CUH and is part of the robotic prostatectomy day surgery team.  He says:

“I sit at a control panel in the operating room and guide the robotic arms holding the surgical instruments.  The robot gives me a high level of manoeuvrability and precision so I can target the cancerous areas without having to open up the abdomen.  This really benefits the patient and speeds up their recovery but it also means I can treat more people, as they need less time in hospital.”

Watch Ben Lamb talking about the operation here:  Prostatectomy | Ben Lamb (no subtitles) - YouTube    

Once the operation is over, patients are cared for on the Day Surgery Unit by specially trained nursing staff, freeing up an inpatient bed in the main hospital.    By the next morning, patients are ready to be discharged, to continue their recovery at home.

CUH day surgery operations manager Graham Johnston says:

“For patients to be going home the next day after a major operation is a huge team effort.   While the robot is vital in achieving this, so is the skill and dedication of the team.  This includes working really closely with patients before and after their surgery, to give them the support they need, extra training for the nursing staff and building on the outstanding skills of our surgical team.”

64 year old Alistair Forsyth from Peterborough had a robotic prostatectomy at CUH on July 22nd 2022.  He was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer and opted for surgery.  He says:

“Knowing I would be home the next day made a real difference to me when I was weighing up my treatment options.   I want to be free of cancer and get back to work and my normal life as soon as possible.  Not having to stay in hospital for several days also means someone else can use that bed space and they can have their operation too.”

Watch a video clip of Alistair pre-surgery here: Pre-surgery | Alistair (no subtitles) - YouTube

On Friday 29th July,  a week after his operation, Alistair was due back at CUH to have a check up and his catheter removed.

The Da Vinci robot is used to carry out a number of other operations at CUH and was donated to the hospital by the Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust (ACT).

ACT is currently raising funds to buy CUH another robot. The £1.5 million appeal was launched in April last year and has already raised £1.36m through donations and pledges, leaving just £142,000 to reach the target.

ACT Director of Fundraising, Claire Billing, said:

“Another robot would enable even greater progress in world class surgery right here in Cambridge, reducing waiting times and speeding up recovery for patients.  A massive thank you to everyone who has helped us raise funds so far.  We can only reach our target with the support of our community of fundraisers and donors but together we can do this.”

More information on how to donate: Buy Addenbrooke's a Robot Appeal - Addenbrooke's Charitable Trust (act4addenbrookes.org.uk)

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