Groote Schuur does first robotic-assisted surgery

Groote Schuur Hospital completed its first robotic-assisted surgery last week. From left are Dr Mark Wellman; patients Isaac Julies, Owen Appolis and Buyisine William Watala; and Dr Samkele Salukazana.

Robotic-assisted surgery was performed at Groote Schuur Hospital for the first time last week.

Using the da Vinci XI surgery system, urologist Dr Samkele Salukazana performed a laparoscopic radical prostatectomy – a minimally invasive procedure to remove a patient’s cancerous prostate – on three men, Owen Appolis, 62; Isaac Julies, 52; and Buyisine William Watala, 63.

Mr Watala was the first to have the procedure, on Monday February 28. He was followed by Mr Appolis, on Tuesday March 1, and Mr Julies, on Wednesday March 2.

Dr Salukazana was joined in theatre by assistant surgeons and scrub nurses.

“Robotic-assisted surgery makes it much more easier to perform surgical procedures, with the high-definition point of view of the cameras, which makes it easier to operate,” he said.

The surgeon operates using a console from which he can control surgical instruments and a camera mounted in robotic arms attached to a separate unit. The system gives the surgeon highly magnified, 3D high-definition views of the surgical area.

The system lets the surgeon make smaller, more precise incisions that reduce blood loss and the likelihood of the patient needing a transfusion.

With the high-definition view and magnification, the surgeon can see structures, vessels and veins far more clearly. “Because you are operating comfortably in a console, you don’t get tired of performing the operation, and your concentration levels can be high,” said Dr Salukazana.

Mr Appolis, of Mitchell’s Plain, said the doctors had briefed him and the other patients beforehand. “So there was no shock when we were headed into the operation.”

He had felt some dizziness after the procedure but had been in the general ward the next day and discharged the day after that, on Thursday March 3, he said.

“My wife is glad that I came home. I am not feeling any discomfort, and I even helped with doing the dishes.”

Mr Watala, of Gugulethu, said he had felt no discomfort after the procedure and had even walked, on a few occasions, to the shop in the hospital. “It was a good experience; I have no complaints.”

He said was feeling much better after having endured prostate pain for over a year. He was also discharged on Thursday March 3.

Dr Mark Wellman, who assisted in theatre, said he had been able to watch the procedures with great clarity on the high-definition screens.

Groote Schuur urologist Dr Samkele Salukazana demonstrates how the robotic surgical system’s console works.
The da Vinci XI surgical system has surgical instruments mounted in robotic arms that are controlled by a surgeon sitting at a console.