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News & Trends - MedTech & Diagnostics

Two-decade evolution of robotic surgery in Australia’s medical landscape

Health Industry Hub | December 11, 2023 |

MedTech & Diagnostics News: In the past two decades, what was once deemed impossible in surgery has now become a reality – complex procedures performed through small incisions, resulting in shorter hospital stays, minimal pain, and fewer complications. Australia’s introduction to the first da Vinci surgical robot heralded a new era in medical possibilities, shifting from evolutionary improvements to revolutionary transformations in surgical care.

Back in 2003, Epworth Hospital in Melbourne made history by introducing the first da Vinci surgical robot in the ANZ region, signalling a leap in robotic-assisted surgery in urology.

“I had seen a prototype of robotics in the US, developed by a start-up company at Stanford University,” said Professor Tony Costello, pioneering urologist in Australian robotic surgery and the Director and CEO of the International Medical Robotics Academy (IMRA).

“The US Department of Defence and NASA collaborated to build a robot that would digitise a surgeon’s hand movements inside a body, through small ports. I was just blown away by the technology.”

The first robotic prostate cancer surgery in Australia was undertaken at Epworth Richmond, taking seven hours. As techniques improved, operating time was soon reduced to three hours. Now, it takes around 1.5 hours. Professor Costello said it took a few years before surgeons were convinced that robots were the way of the future.

This pioneering step quickly expanded into various fields such as cardiac, thoracic, foregut colorectal, gynaecology, and oncological surgeries. By 2008, the da Vinci robot’s versatility was showcased in handling complex bariatric and advanced surgeries.

The impact of this 20-year journey extends far beyond numbers; it signifies a profound transformation in patient care and surgical innovation. Associate Professor Craig Lynch, a Sydney surgeon, marvelled at the advancements, saying “We can do operations easily, and we can do the more complex procedures now that 20 years ago we really didn’t think possible.”

In a recent Health Industry Hub podcast, Professor Costello delved into the transformational journey of the new robotic systems showcased at the Society of Robotic Surgery (SRS) Annual Meeting, contemplating their evolving technological prowess and the quest for equitable patient access.

Reflecting on the 20-year journey of da Vinci robotic surgery, Lisa Kirsch, Director of Sales, Surgical and Hospital at Device Technologies, remarked “Our commitment to state-of-the-art medical technology has been unwavering. These advancements are not just about the technology; they’ve been made possible by ongoing collaborations with surgeons and healthcare customers who are committed to improving outcomes for their patients.”

The company has also recently partnered with Medical Microinstruments (MMI), marking a milestone in their joint efforts in micro- and supermicrosurgery to enhance surgical outcomes and broaden patient access to treatment options throughout the Asia Pacific region.

Although the da Vinci has dominated the robotic landscape for the past two decades, competition from a number of new platforms is likely to shake up robotic surgery. Cost and health economics will play a key role in deciding which new platforms succeed.

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