First robot-assisted surgeries in the Caribbean done in T&T

(Trinidad Guardian) The first robot-assisted surgeries to be conducted in the English-speaking Caribbean were done in T&T.

The first such surgeries were done on September 20 at the Port-of-Spain General Hospital (POSGH) with the assistance of the Freehand Panorama CoBOT. 

The robot is used to assist with laparoscopic surgeries.

Laparoscopic procedures involve the insertion of narrow tubes into the abdomen through small incisions.

The surgeon uses these tools to manipulate, cut and sew tissue. The surgeon monitors and views the work through a camera which is also inserted into the body via an incision and held by an assistant.

The robot holds the camera instead of the assistant and is under the direct control of the operating surgeon.

The operating surgeon communicates with the robot using a series of head gestures while wearing a headpiece and a controller by their foot.

This directs and angles the camera precisely where the surgeon needs it and holds it more steady than human hands could. 

“By giving us complete control of our vision we actually remove that potential for human error. It gives you a reliable and steady vision because this is now held by a robot that obeys your every move,” University of the West Indies (UWI) Professor Shamir Cawich said at a press conference yesterday. 

This, he said, translated to a safer procedure for patients. 

Cawich is among a team of six surgeons who were the first to be trained to use the new technology.

Referred to as the “Trinidad 6”, the team also consists of Professor Michael Ramdass, Professor Dilip Dan, Dr Yardesh Singh, Dr Patrick Harnaryan and Dr Ravi Maharaj.

The team was the first in the world to be remotely trained in robotic surgery. Overall, four patients have undergone surgery using the robot locally. 

“We did a total of four operations from as simple as just a regular elective gallbladder removal to complex operations like removing stones from the bile ducts,” Professor Cawich said.

“I’m happy to tell you all of these patients are fantastic, they’re all well and their recovery was immaculate.”

Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Medical Sciences at UWI Professor Dilip Dan said the technology’s introduction is the country’s first step toward fully robotic surgeries.

However, he admits that eventuality is still well in the future. He also noted that the mobility of the robot would allow it to be used at any medical institution within the public and private sectors.

Stakeholders involved in the journey to date are A.A. Laquis, the University of the West Indies, the Ministry of Health, the British High Commission in T&T, Imperial Medical Solutions, Freehand, and the UK Department of International Trade. 

While A.A. Laquis owns the robot, group marketing manager Cheryl Mohammed said it will be made available for the treatment of patients as well as furthering medical education. 

The UWI team at Mona, Jamaica, led by Project Lead Professor Joseph Plummer, and Surgical Lead Dr Roy McGregor, will now continue on to Phase 2 of the project to expand into more complex cases and fine tune technical issues identified by their T&T counterparts. Jamaica is expected to conduct its first robot-assisted surgery by the month’s end.