Hospital uses new life-saving technology

2019-07-09 06:00

A new technology aptly called Firefly™, is helping doctors at Life Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont during kidney surgery to remove cancer tumours more safely and more efficiently.

They do this through fluorescence imaging, assisting surgeons to better identify and remove cancerous tissue while sparing healthy kidney tissue.

Firefly™ is the utilisation of a green dye that lights up when using the specialised fluoroscopic camera on the da Vinci X surgical robotic system. “It lights up parts of the kidney, showing us the difference between cancerous and healthy tissue, and the blood supply to the tumour”, says Doctor Conray Moolman, urologist at the hospital.

This new innovation consists of the minimally-invasive precision of the da Vinci X Robotic Surgical System and the Firefly™ fluorescence imaging – ensuring the best surgical outcomes for the patient. “Cancerous tissue can look similar to healthy tissue with the naked eye. Therefore, the addition of Firefly™ fluorescence during robotic surgery improves our ability to remove kidney tumours when before we might have had to remove the whole kidney,” adds Moolman.

The Firefly™ technology uses near-infrared imaging to detect an injected tracer dye of indocyanine green (ICG) in the blood. It allows the surgeon to navigate with real-time, image-guided identification of the kidney which no other surgical robotic system offers.

During surgery the dye is injected into the kidney at three different stages of the procedure. The first injection of the dye is made intravenously (IV) by the anesthesiologist to give a detailed picture of the blood supply to the kidney.

“Up to 25% of patients might have extra renal arteries that are not always obvious on a computed tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), so the Firefly™ can help us see these arteries. This helps us ensure that all of the blood supply to the kidney is accounted for and controlled prior to the removal of the tumour, and can therefore decrease blood loss,” explains Moolman.

The second injection of dye helps the surgeon differentiate between the cancerous tissue and the normal kidney tissue. Healthy tissue lights up green and cancerous tissue remains dark. This results in better tumour removal and potentially lowers the risk of leaving any cancerous tissue behind – resulting in better long-term cancer cure rates. Finally, after the tumour has been removed and the kidney has been repaired, the dye can again be injected to ensure that the blood supply to the kidney has been properly restored.

In most cases in South Africa, it is standard procedure to remove the entire kidney when a kidney cancer diagnosis is made. Now Life Kingsbury Hospital kidney cancer patients can benefit from this illuminating technology which reduces the risk of patients developing kidney failure after the surgery.

Benefits of the technology:

In the last 10 years there has been a growing need for automation and technological advancements in healthcare due to growing incidences of chronic disease, an increasing geriatric population, the complexity of surgical procedures, and increasing demand for non-invasive surgeries with more precision and flexibility.

Robotic-assisted surgical technology has a number of benefits for patients including reduced postoperative pain; lower risk of infection or complications; shorter hospital stays; less scarring due to smaller incisions; faster return to normal activities (for example urinary continence and erectile function).

Adam Pyle, Life Healthcare chief executive officer (CEO), says: “Life Healthcare strives to deliver market-leading quality care across our service offerings and one of the ways this can be done is through the use of technology.”


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