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Robotic Arms Help Delhi Surgeons Remove Cancerous Pancreas Without a Cut

Doctors at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi used robotic arms to successfully remove cancerous pancreas from a 40-year-old woman, without an open surgery. They used these arms to detach the diseased organ and then took it out through the vagina.

This is being seen as a major achievement because removal of pancreas through laparoscopic surgery is rarely done in India. Surgeons call it ‘tiger’s territory’ because of the complexities associated with it. Robotic surgery is a form of minimally invasive surgery where advanced robotic systems are used to assist surgeons in certain procedures.

This one was done with the help of the ‘Whipple Procedure’ in which cancerous pancreas is removed without damaging the main blood vessels, small intestine and the bile duct around it.


Picture for representation only. Source: Flickr

Even outside India, very few centres use this procedure, or minimally invasive surgery, for the removal of pancreatic cancer. The procedure takes nearly 10 hours for completion. With the help of robotic arms, it took the doctors more than 15 hours to complete.

“It was the first time we did the procedure with robot assistance so it took longer. We took breaks to plan the steps for surgery and at times prayed for its successful outcome,” said Dr Brij Bhushan Agarwal, Vice Chairman, department of laparoscopic and general surgery at SGRH, to The Times of India.

The patient, a 40-year-old woman from Uttam Nagar in West Delhi, was discharged on the sixth day after the procedure. According to doctors, her clinical and lab parameters are fine now, and she has even resumed her household duties.

Pancreatic cancer is usually diagnosed late because it often grows and spreads long before any symptoms are visible. “The five-year survival rate is between 10.7% and 27%, depending on the spread of the tumour. Surgery to remove the diseased pancreas in the early stages can improve the chances of survival,” said Dr. P K Julka, professor of oncology at AIIMS. The five-year survival rate refers to the percentage of patients who live at least 5 years after their cancer is diagnosed.

Surgeons operate though five key holes in robotics surgery. The video images help them get a clear vision and operate better. With their 360 degree rotation feature, the robotic arms allow easy resection and suturing. They have a high degree of dexterity and allow surgeons to operate in very tight spaces in the body that would otherwise only be accessible through open, long incision, surgery.

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