Edinburgh hospital is first in Europe to use keyhole surgery robot

Milton Keynes Versius procedure 2 (002)

A hospital in Scotland has started treating patients with a new robot that can carry out keyhole surgery, in a debut for the new technology in Europe.

CMR Surgical’s Versius minimal access surgery (MAS) robot has been carrying out a range of colorectal surgeries – including procedures for serious bowel disease and cancer – on around 30 NHS patients at Western General Hospital in Edinburgh.

It was followed closely afterwards by Milton Keynes University Hospital NHS Trust in Buckinghamshire, England, and more NHS hospitals are due to roll out the system over the course of 2020, says the UK company.

The robot (pictured) is portable enough to be moved between sites in a hospital or even between hospital sites. It is operated by a surgeon who uses joystick-like controls to manoeuvre three robot arms, monitoring the procedure via computer-augmented display screens.

Across its first two NHS sites, Versius has the potential to perform up to 700 MAS procedures each year, which otherwise would have been performed by open surgery, according to CMR.

In principle, that should result in fewer infections, as well as less pain and scarring, and MAS has also been linked to faster recovery in hospital, with fewer post-operative bed days required for recovery.

In 2018, a report by the Office of Health Economics concluded that swapping to MAS from open surgery cut the average length of stays for gynaecology patients from 5.5 days to just 1.5 days in 95% of cases.

“We set out to design a system that was versatile, portable and cost-effective, and it is immensely rewarding to see it now being used in the NHS,” said CMR’s chief medical officer Mark Slack.

“Our focus now will be on working with the surgical community across the UK to provide the option of minimal access surgery to everyone who may benefit.”

Versius made its global debut in India last year, where it was used at Galaxy Care Hospital in Pune for keyhole or laparoscopic surgical procedures, including hysterectomies and myomectomies.

CMR is rolling out the new robot with the help of a sizeable £195 million ($240 million) third-round fundraising, which closed last September and remains Europe’s largest private financing on the medical technology sector.

Med tech giant GE Healthcare – a big player in surgical systems – was among the investors.

CMR is also running a clinical registry to create a database of outcomes information for patients treated using Versius, to keep tabs on patient safety and help refine the use of the robot.