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Blackrock Clinic CEO Blog The use of robotics in surgery: revolutionising a time-honoured profession?

The use of robotics in surgery: revolutionising a time-honoured profession?

3rd Nov 2022

The future of healthcare is looking more and more high-tech, and one area that is seeing significant advances is the use of surgical robots in hospital operating theatres. While robots are not yet available to perform procedures across the entire surgical spectrum, they are increasingly becoming the go-to choice in a number of specialties, largely due to their precision and accuracy.

Benefits for patients from robotically assisted techniques are reported to include: fewer complications, shorter recovery times, and reduced risk of infection. For all these reasons, it makes sense for Blackrock Clinic to champion these high-tech systems, and to support the specialist surgeons who drive them.

Powerful Imaging Tools

Many surgical robotic systems are equipped with the latest imaging technologies so that the surgical teams benefit from both 3D hi-res views of the patient in real-time, and insights available from assimilated surgical case-study databases. As in best clinical practice, the surgical teams learn from, contribute to, and improve patient outcomes through data analysis. 

Minimally invasive surgery

Reported across the board in robotic-surgical patient cases, the smallest (minimally invasive) incisions bring the advantages of reduced blood loss, less pain, and less scarring. These benefits offer a more positive outlook for recovery and a post-surgical lifestyle.

Different types of surgical robots and their functions

There are different types of surgical robotic systems available, built with a variety of clinical requirements in mind. Focusing on our main areas of patient care, Blackrock Clinic’s current investment in surgical robotics comprises of: 

The Da Vinci Xi Surgical Robot

Introduced in 2016, this system is now being used in the following specialties:

  • Gynaecology,
  • Urology,
  • Colorectal,
  • Weight loss (bariatric), and
  • Thoracic.

In 2018 Mr Vincent Young, Cardiothoracic Surgeon at Blackrock Clinic, performed what is thought to be Ireland’s first minimally-invasive heart bypass operation (CABG) using the Da Vinci robot. According to the surgeon, this is ‘game-changing for the survival and recovery of patients’.

Prof Tom Darcy, Consultant Gynaecologist at Blackrock Clinic, has a similarly positive message from his own experience of the Da Vinci System. He states that it brings ‘an absolute advantage to the patient’.

The robot:

The Da Vinci system has four robotic arms which are controlled by the surgeon from a remote consul. The surgeon benefits from sitting in ergonomic comfort, which adds to their effectiveness during long and tiring procedures. The surgeon leads the surgical team, who are placed strategically around the surgical table.

It is a sophisticated surgical platform designed to enhance minimally invasive and image-guided techniques, fulfilling the needs of surgeons and patients undergoing complex surgical procedures.

Mako SmartRobotics

Introduced by Blackrock Clinic in 2021, we remain proud to have brought together the largest number of orthopaedic surgeons in the country to use the MAKO SmartRobotics system, and we support them with a specially trained orthopaedic surgical and nursing team.

Our Mako system is currently programmed for the following orthopaedic procedures:

  • Hip replacement surgery
  • Knee replacement surgery
  • Partial knee replacement surgery
Mr Niall Hogan, the first surgeon to use the Mako robot at Blackrock Clinic for knee replacement
Mr Niall Hogan, Orthopaedic Surgeon

Software updates are expected in the near future for shoulder replacement.

Mr Niall Hogan, Orthopaedic Surgeon at Blackrock Clinic, was the first surgeon to use our Mako, and in a statement following this inaugural procedure he remarked: ‘What we are witnessing now is the beginning of a new era in orthopaedic surgical technology, one where patients will benefit from technological advances, bringing with it a reduction in patient pain and a reduction in hospital stays, not to mention improved functionality.’

The Robot:

This time, the surgeon and the robot stand together at the patient’s side with remote assistance from imaging software.

The patient journey begins with a CT scan from which a 3D personalised template is created. This gives the surgeon a unique anatomy of the patient, allowing for customised surgical assessment and planning.

The surgical robot is then programmed according to the unique template, and operated by the surgeon to accomplish a personalised joint replacement procedure.

The accuracy of the surgery aids in the preservation of soft tissue and healthy bone, bringing even further advantages to patient recovery such as:

The Mako Robot arrives at Blackrock Clinic and is welcomed by the executive team.
The Mako Robot arrives at Blackrock Clinic
  • reduced postoperative pain;
  • improved implant positioning;
  • shorter hospital stay, and
  • a lower number of post-operative physiotherapy sessions.

Tech investment

The discussion on the future of technology within the surgical environment continues to raise as many questions as answers as the pace of innovation plots an ever more acute trajectory.

What we know at Blackrock Clinic is that we must continue to provide the best healthcare for our patients, and to that end, we remain committed to investing in technology, and the talent behind it.

The real story is about the people AND the machines. It’s imperative to listen to the surgeons.