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ACT launch Addenbrooke’s robot appeal

ACT robot appeal

A £1.5 million appeal to buy a surgical robot for our hospitals has been launched by Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust (ACT). A new surgical robot will mean quicker, less invasive surgery and faster healing and recovery times for patients.

Robotic surgery is a form of keyhole surgery involving small incisions where the surgeon operates on the patient by controlling a computer-enhanced robot, mimicking the surgeon’s hand and wrist movements, and allowing absolute precision.

The large 3D view of the patient’s organs enables surgeons to perform many types of complex procedures with enhanced vision, greater precision, flexibility, and control than is possible with conventional techniques.

The benefits of robotic surgery for patients are immense and can change patients’ lives. It can take months to recover from traditional, ‘open’ surgery but incisions made using robotic surgery are much smaller, reducing the risk of complications and infection, minimising scarring, pain and discomfort and helping patients recover and return home more quickly. Following robot-assisted surgery, patients can be discharged from hospital within a matter of days, not weeks.

However, we currently only have one robot which is dedicated to treat kidney, bladder, and prostate cancer patients. ACT’s new appeal will help fund another surgical robot, revolutionising patient care across six specialties in our hospital including urology, gynae-oncology, gynaecology, lower GI (gastrointestinal tract), ENT (ear, nose and throat) and HPB (Hepato-Pancreatico-Biliary - diseases of the liver, pancreas and biliary tree) and improving outcomes for over 1,500 patients every year.

One of the specialty areas that will benefit is head and neck surgery which can be very invasive and where some tumours are difficult to reach. A surgeon operating a robot would be able to access the tumour through the mouth and with precision meaning that patients regain the ability to swallow much more quickly, have minimal scarring, can eat and drink without help, and need less ongoing treatment following their operation. ACT’s campaign to buy a surgical robot could help ENT patients get back on their feet much sooner after an operation.

Ms Ekpemi Irune, ENT, head and neck consultant said:

Head and neck cancer surgery can be very invasive. Sometimes a tumour in the back of the mouth or throat cannot be easily reached so the surgeon may have to split a patient’s jaw so they can get to the tumour. The patient has to recover in hospital for several days and they can go on to develop long term problems with bone healing, chronic pain, etc. This can be very distressing for patients. A surgical robot would be able to access tumours through the mouth with precision.

Ekpemi Irune

Consultant in gynaecological oncology, Krishnayan Haldar, said: “Using robotic assisted surgery has an advantage over current laparoscopic surgery, because it can help us to provide much finer dissection. For example, the surgeon can preserve the nerves to the bladder and bowel during a radical hysterectomy – a nerve sparing procedure. The results are much better for the patient’s quality of life post-surgery… And it has been proven that post- surgery, pain is reduced because the movement and pulling of skin around the entry point is reduced. Some patients can be discharged on the same day; having a hysterectomy in the morning and leaving the hospital that evening because the incision is so small.”

Three years ago, Jenny Arnold who lives in Cambridge was treated for oral cancer using robotic surgery at London’s Royal Marsden Hospital. She said: “It was really awkward for my family to come and visit me because they’re from Worcester. If I’d been at Addenbrooke’s my family could have stayed over at my house. It was just very traumatic being in an unfamiliar place in unfamiliar surroundings and being so far away from everybody. Only my family could visit and not my friends as it was just too far for them to come. She added: “If Addenbrooke’s had had a robot, it would have been so much easier for me and my family.”

Shelly Thake, ACT’s CEO, said:

We hope we can once again call upon our incredible supporters to get behind our new robot appeal. With the pressures caused by Covid, the hospital needs our help to get its surgical programme moving again and to deliver the quickest, safest surgery possible. The robot will enable surgeons and their teams to operate on more patients, from people with pancreatic cancer to gynaecology patients, enabling them to recuperate faster and get home to their families more quickly.

Shelly Thake

To find out more or to donate or fundraise please visit