A cancer patient who had her kidney removed by robot agreed to have the operation broadcast live on the internet because she believed it would keep her surgeon on his toes.
Denise Parker, 54, underwent the two-hour procedure at Guy’s hospital as part of a 24-hour global online seminar showing the skills of the world’s best robotic surgeons.
Guy’s performs about 400 robotic operations a year on cancer patients, the most in the UK, and was the country’s only hospital invited to take part.
Mrs Parker’s operation was performed by consultant urological surgeon Ben Challacombe using Guy’s new £2 million da Vinci Xi robot.
“I knew that as long as he didn’t get stage fright, he would perform 110 per cent with the world watching what he was doing,” she said.
“I put my life in his hands and I’m so glad I went with his recommendations.” She joked: “I had my chance to be televised all over the world and I had not a stitch of make-up on.”
Her family watched via the hospital’s Twitter feed and the Evening Standard was invited into theatre to film the operation. Mr Challacombe operated the robot from a corner of the theatre, with his back turned to the patient.
After the kidney was cut free, it was placed in a plastic bag and pulled from one of the “keyhole” incisions made in the side of her chest.
A tumour had been discovered by chance in her right kidney when she fell ill with gall stones while on holiday in Malta in September. “That was such a shock,” she said. “Apparently this kind of tumour doesn’t display any symptoms until it is too late.”
Robots were introduced at Guy’s in 2004 by Professor Prokar Dasgupta. He oversaw Mrs Parker’s operation to ensure the live broadcast did not compromise her safety. The new robot, the second at Guy’s, will enable a further 150 operations a year to be performed.
Mrs Parker, a telephonist from Basildon, who has two adult children and a 10-month-old granddaughter, Ronnie, was walking around on the morning following her operation. She was released from hospital last Friday.
Mr Challacombe, who has performed 400 partial or full kidney removals with the robot, said it helped him operate more quickly, with greater precision and improved safety.
“If there is a problem we can usually fix it,” he said. “If there is bleeding we can usually stop it. It’s very unusual that things can’t be achieved with a keyhole technique.”
He encountered difficulties locating the kidney because of her high body mass index but declared the operation a success. “You never score 100 per cent on any exam, on any operation, but we are high 90s here.”