AS a significant medical milestone for the province, the highly sophisticated da Vinci Si robotic surgical system has been introduced in the Eastern Cape at the Netcare Greenacres Hospital in Port Elizabeth. Managing director of Netcare’s hospital division Jacques du Plessis said they had brought the technology and capacity required for robotic-assisted surgical procedures to the Eastern Cape after identifying a need for the intricate and highly complex surgical interventions that the da Vinci Si system enabled trained surgeons to achieve. Netcare launched the system in Johannesburg and Cape Town a few years ago.The general manager of Netcare Greenacres Hospital, André Bothma, hailed the development and the benefits it will bring for patients with localised prostate cancer. The da Vinci Si robotic-assisted technology had already been used successfully in South Africa for surgical procedures to treat kidney and bladder cancer in selected patients. “The new technology will make it possible for trained specialists to offer our patients prostate cancer treatment that is truly world class, and is associated with enhanced outcomes and fewer complications than more traditional forms of surgery for prostate cancer,” Bothma said. Urologist, robotic surgeon and consultant advisor in robotic surgery to Netcare hospitals, Dr Gregory Boustead, is one of the world’s leading authorities on the use of the technology. He said the technology is recognised as the gold standard for the surgical treatment of localised prostate cancer in Europe and the United States and is rapidly becoming the treatment of choice in South Africa. “This is not surprising, as the technology enables well-trained surgical teams to achieve much greater surgical precision than is possible with open or laparoscopic surgery due to the enhanced and magnified three-dimensional, high-definition view of the area being operated on,” Boustead added. “The robotic arms and wristed instruments, furthermore, allow more freedom of movement than the human hand, which enhances surgical precision and translates into better cancer clearance rates and improved preservation of the nerves which control urinary continence, as well as erectile function. “The latter is of course important to all men, particularly younger men, who have developed prostate cancer.” He further explained that a study analysing the outcomes of the first 500 robotic-assisted prostatectomies at Netcare facilities has shown excellent results. “Hospital stay was two to three days, with very low complication rates and risks of blood loss requiring blood transfusion.”Urologists Dr Hannes Brummer and Dr Johan Coetzee, who will initially be operating with the da Vinci system at Netcare Greenacres Hospital, have undergone extensive training in South Africa and Europe and will initially perform robotic-assisted surgery under Dr Boustead’s proctorship. Du Plessis notes that the surgeon remained in full control, as the da Vinci system cannot perform surgery by itself, but was designed to assist the surgeon to perform more complex surgeries with an even greater degree of accuracy than was previously possible. “We regard this system as an important enhancement of existing surgical expertise in the Eastern Cape, especially as patients in the province can now and in the years ahead benefit from da Vinci robotic-assisted surgery without the inconvenience of having to travel to other provinces,” Du Plessis concluded.