Liverpool launch for UK’s first robotic heart and lung surgery programme

Owen and Nerys

LIVERPOOL Heart and Chest Hospital has announced the launch of the UK’s first robotic heart and lung surgery programme.

The new robotics programme will enable more patients requiring specialist cardiothoracic treatment to benefit from cutting edge surgery.

Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital – the first specialist Trust in the country to be rated outstanding by the Care Quality Commission – is at the forefront of the battle against these two leading causes of death in the UK.

As one of the largest specialist hospitals in the country, it serves a population of 2.8 million people, spanning Merseyside, Cheshire, North Wales and the Isle of Man, and sees more than 100,000 patients each year. 

Mr Paul Modi, Consultant Cardiac Surgeon at the hospital, who performed the hospital’s first robotic cardiac surgery cases, said:  “The benefits of this new programme for our patients will be enormous. 

“Whilst we are already a leading centre for minimally invasive surgical procedures, we are at the absolute limit of the numbers that we can help this way with our existing equipment.

“With our new robotic surgery programme, we will be able to significantly increase the number of patients who can undergo minimally invasive surgery.  Equally importantly, we will also be able to reduce their post-operative pain, lower their risk of infection, and ensure that their stay in hospital is considerably reduced, getting them back to their family and loved ones quicker, which is where they want to be.”

He added: “The programme will also enable us to operate on those who are currently considered inoperable because of their health, as there is far less trauma to the body operating through small incisions only a few millimetres in length, rather than the more traditional open surgery.

“This is especially important as we live in an ageing society and more people are living with a number of health problems. Robotic surgery can make a huge difference to their lives.” 

Owen Veldhuizen, from Llandudno, was one of the hospital’s first robotic heart surgery patients, undergoing a pioneering procedure to repair his mitral valve.

The 51 year old, who works for Cartrefi Conwy, a housing association in Conwy, said: “I was referred to Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital by my GP after discovering that I had a heart murmur. Following a series of tests, I was told that I needed to have heart surgery to repair my mitral valve.

“Mr Modi, my surgeon, told me that I would be one of the very first patients in the country to undergo this type of robotic heart surgery. Although I was a little bit nervous, as soon as he explained the benefits of the procedure and told me how quickly I would recover and be back at home, I felt reassured and was confident that I was in the very best and safest hands possible.”

With its team of newly trained robotic surgeons, the Trust expects to carry out 250-300 heart and lung cases in the first year. 

Mr Mike Shackcloth, one of the Trust’s robotically trained consultant thoracic surgeons, added: “Our robotics programme will not only allow us to provide even better care for our patients, but it will also enable us to develop a training and research programme that will ensure we can attract top trainees and consultants in the future.

“Our team at Liverpool Heart and Chest Hospital have national and international reputations for outstanding care and treatment, and our new robotics programme will ensure we remain at the leading edge of advances in surgery.”

The four-armed da Vinci robot is named after the Renaissance artist and inventor who foresaw the coming of robots.  Operated by a consultant surgeon, the robot behaves the same way as a surgeon would when carrying out open surgery, but through tiny holes – a technique known as minimally invasive surgery.

Using the robot gives surgeons a high-definition view of the operating site in 3D via a screen inside the control console, ensuring even greater surgical precision.

For further information, please visit www.lhch.nhs.uk