Robotic surgery will offer fast recovery to millions of Africans

July 26, 2013

Da Vinci Surgical System that facilitates complex surgery using a less invasive approach is finally taking shape in the African continent. A friend of mine who works with Intuitive surgical Inc. informed me that they are looking forward to expand their market to more parts of Africa. Da Vinci surgical system is used for repairing cardiac valve, gynecologic surgical procedure prostatectomies. Da Vinci robots are said to operate in several thousand hospitals globally but there has been few of the systems in Africa hospitals due to lack of skilled staff. The fact is that most hospitals are state or religious institutions controlled with majority of them in dire need of infrastructure development. The prohibitive cost of the system has also locked out many willing hospitals from buying the system because on average it costs close to US$2 million with hundred thousand dollars of annual maintenance fees something that poorly financed hospitals cannot afford.

In my recent involvement with Da Vinci Operating System, I realized that surgery that uses microscopes is the best alternative since its minimal scars makes the patients to recover much faster. Good news is that hospitals in Africa are adopting and introducing the robotic technology as part of their services and are assembling skilled robotic surgery staff. In one case am familiar with, a hospital has successfully performed robotic surgery involving gynecology surgeries, prostate surgeries and one urology and gastrointestinal surgery.  At the moment, hospitals I know who are using robotic surgery in Africa are focusing in urology, digestive cases, gynecological procedures and cancer. For those not familiar with Intuitive Surgical systems they entail three components. One of them is a vision cart that holds a 26 inches high definition monitor that has a 3Dimension camera, light source, central control unit and data processing center. The other component is a robotic cart that has one camera arm that has high definition 3Dimension video camera that produces clear picture of the incision area when all arms are put into the body and endowrist instrument that allows 520 degrees of rotation. Also there is the doctor’s console, from which the surgeon controls the instruments through a master controller. From the screen, the doctor can view the incision area clearly in 3D and can magnify it digitally.

To me, robotic surgery has been the best technology development medicine industry has seen to date. After being the preserve of elite hospitals in Africa, other facilities are now expected to widely avail them to patients and doctors who will now be able take full advantage of breakthrough in surgeries. As a programmer who is lucky to be involved in a robotic surgery development project, I must confess there are plenty of benefits. The most important is that, recovery periods are less and to those who mind about spotless skin, the scars left on the body after the procedure are invisible. A fellow programmer who is working on developing a robotically assisted surgical system informed me that surgeons previously found trouble during major surgery procedures to locate tissue in difficult areas as a result of limited sight of the surgeon but that changed once the system came into the market.  I’m one of those who believe that robotic surgery is the bridge between the more risky open surgery and less risky and flexible laparoscopy. The uptake of this magnificent technological development in medicine industry means millions of people in Africa will join their worldwide counterparts who have bid goodbye to long recovery phase and join the laparoscopy which allows for faster recovery phase.

Contador Harrison