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Robotic surgery at public health institution

The first robotic surgical operation in a government hospital was performed on 22 February 2022 at Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town. 

The surgical robotic programme at the hospital employs the da Vinci Xi system – the most technologically advanced surgical robot currently available – used by surgeons from the specialist disciplines of colorectal surgery, urology, gynaecology, and hepatobiliary surgery. The system’s versatility and its use by multiple surgical specialities will maximise the number of patients who will benefit from this sophisticated medical technology. The main diseases that the programme will focus on are colorectal, liver, prostate, kidney and bladder cancers, and women with severe endometriosis.

The surgical team operating on the first patient using the da Vinci robotic system.
New technology

This new technology allows surgeons to perform robotic-assisted minimally invasive (keyhole) surgery. The operation is not performed by a robot alone; assisting the operating team with an advanced set of tools allows the surgeon to guide the procedure from a dedicated console. Tiny surgical instruments move inside the patient like a human hand, but with far greater precision and with a significantly greater range of motion.

Patient benefits

Cameras allow for better visualisation and magnification of tissues leading to more precise surgery.

Major surgery previously requiring ‘big incisions’ can now be done with multiple small incisions, leading to less post-operative pain and a faster return to normal activities after surgery.

Fewer post-operative complications such as hernias. 

Visualisation systems check vitals like the blood supply of an organ and thus decrease the chance of major complications when compared to traditional surgery. 

3D visualisation allows for better depth perception in relation to traditional 2D laparoscopic surgery.

Public health

Dr Matodzi Mukosi, Tygerberg Hospital CEO, said: ‘We see this as an opportunity to use state of the art medical technology to improve patient experience and ensure good clinical outcomes. This will also be a good morale booster for our surgeons and theatre staff who will be able to showcase their skills and capabilities in the field.’

Dr Tim Forgan, Tygerberg Hospital Head of Colorectal Surgery and Robotics Coordinator said: ‘The da Vinci robotic system is the latest cutting-edge technology in minimally invasive surgery. To use this surgical system (that has been shown to decrease the chance of complications while allowing for successful major surgery through small incisions) at Tygerberg Hospital is exciting and inspirational.’

The use of robotic technology is an evolution of the surgical techniques that are already being employed by the surgeons at Tygerberg Hospital. The surgeons who are being trained in using the da Vinci are already accomplished laparoscopic surgeons and are considered national experts in their respective fields. They are all lecturers at Stellenbosch University’s Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences. The Tygerberg Hospital da Vinci robotic programme is being built on the foundation of years of experience and technical know-how in minimally invasive surgery (keyhole surgery). ‘Thanks to this solid foundation stepping into robotic surgery has been seen as a natural progression,’ Dr Tim Forgan concluded. 

Click here to watch a short video on the recent robotic procedure.


Last Updated on 7 Jun 2022 by HPCSA Corporate Affairs