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Home in a day after robotic cancer surgery

A surgical robot at Addenbrooke’s is helping to cure patients with prostate cancer, enabling them to go home less than 24 hours after surgery.

Robotic surgery
A robotic prostatectomy being carried at at CUH.

This the shortest hospital stay in the UK for the procedure, known as a robotic prostatectomy, and is being carried out about five times a week in the Day Surgery Unit at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (CUH).

The robot is operated by a highly skilled surgeon and removes cancerous tissue by making several small incisions in the patient’s abdomen. Not only is this less invasive, with less blood loss and pain, it means patients recover more quickly from their surgery.

In the past with open surgery, the procedure needed a hospital stay of round 4-5 days. Now patients are able to go home the next day, freeing up bed space so more patients can be treated, helping to reduce waiting times and cancellations.

Watch: Surgeon Ben Lamb explains how the robot is helping to speed up patient recovery


Ben Lamb video transcript:

00:00:02:14 - 00:00:02:20

00:00:03:05 - 00:00:05:13
So this operation is for men with prostate cancer.

00:00:05:23 - 00:00:08:24
We remove the prostate surgically to get rid of the cancer

00:00:09:12 - 00:00:11:01
by using a robotic approach.

00:00:11:01 - 00:00:14:03
We can do this through very small cuts, which has less pain,

00:00:14:12 - 00:00:17:01
less chance of complications, and a faster recovery.

00:00:17:10 - 00:00:19:20
Working with the nurses on the day surgery Unit,

00:00:20:14 - 00:00:24:06
we can get patients up, eating and drinking early,

00:00:24:12 - 00:00:27:22
out of bed, walking around, ready for their discharge the next day

00:00:28:06 - 00:00:31:22
as a knock on effect to free up our beds to allow us to operate

00:00:31:22 - 00:00:33:23
on the next patients and the next patients.

00:00:33:23 - 00:00:39:00
That has much wider benefits for the hospital and for patients in general.

64 year old Alistair Forsyth from Peterborough had a robotic prostatectomy at CUH on July 22nd 2022. He was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer and opted for surgery. He says:

“Knowing I would be home the next day made a real difference to me when I was weighing up my treatment options.

"I want to be free of cancer and get back to work and my normal life as soon as possible.

"Not having to stay in hospital for several days also means someone else can use that bed space and they can have their operation too.”

Alistair Forsyth
Alistair Forsyth, just before his robotic prostatectomy at CUH

To think I'll be home tomorrow, and hopefully cancer free is incredible.

Alistair Forsyth, CUH patient

Mr Ben Lamb is a consultant surgeon at CUH and is part of the robotic prostatectomy day surgery team. He says:

“I sit at a control panel in the operating room and guide the robotic arms holding the surgical instruments. The robot gives me a high level of manoeuvrability and precision so I can target the cancerous areas without having to open up the abdomen."

Once the operation is over, patients are cared for on the Day Surgery Unit by specially trained nursing staff, freeing up an inpatient bed in the main hospital.

By the next morning, patients are ready to be discharged, to continue their recovery at home.

This really benefits the patient and speeds up their recovery, but it also means I can treat more people.

Mr Ben Lamb, consultant surgeon at CUH
Robotic surgery Robotic surgery
Robotic surgery
The robot is placed into position over the patient
Robotic surgery
The surgeon operates the arms of the robot using a control panel

CUH day surgery operations manager Graham Johnston says:

“For patients to be going home the next day after a major operation is a huge team effort. While the robot is vital in achieving this, so is the skill and dedication of the team.

"This includes working really closely with patients before and after their surgery, to give them the support they need, extra training for the nursing staff and building on the outstanding skills of our surgical team.”

The Da Vinci robot is used to carry out a number of other operations at CUH and was donated to the hospital by the Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust (ACT).

ACT is currently raising funds to buy CUH another robot. The £1.5 million appeal was launched in April last year and has already raised £1.36m through donations and pledges, leaving just £142,000 to reach the target.

ACT Director of Fundraising, Claire Billing, said:

“Another robot would enable even greater progress in world class surgery right here in Cambridge, reducing waiting times and speeding up recovery for patients. A massive thank you to everyone who has helped us raise funds so far. We can only reach our target with the support of our community of fundraisers and donors but together we can do this.”

Find out more how to donate here (opens in a new tab)