UK first as brave mum undergoes innovative robotic lung surgery

Posted on in Hospitals, Services, The trust

Gemma Walker was pregnant with her second child when she was told she had a tumour on her lung.

But because of the delicate nature of the proposed operation to remove the tumour she was told that her surgery would have to wait until the baby had been born.

Gemma Walker with Finlay

Gemma Walker with Finlay

The 27 year-old, from Darlington, was put under the care of cardiothoracic consultant Joel Dunning who wanted to treat Gemma as quickly and as least invasively as possible with the use of the cutting-edge Da Vinci robot at The James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough.

Thanks to a team effort involving a number of departments at the Middlesbrough hospital a plan was put into place. Baby Finlay was born six weeks early and was home four weeks later – five days before his mum went into hospital for an innovative operation to remove a carcinoid tumour from her lung.

Gemma said: “I had got to the stage whenever I made physical effort like climbing the stairs I was seriously out of breath. I knew something had to be done. Mr Dunning explained that he was going to use the robot to help remove the tumour, which sounds quite scary, but the speed of my recovery has been fantastic, compared to what it would have been without it.”

Robotic lung surgery James Cook

Mr Dunning added: “This is the first time in the UK that the Da Vinci robot has been used for the removal of a tumour from the main airway of a lung. The difficulty comes in the fact that the left lung had to be disconnected from the rest of the airways and then stitched back together after the tumour had been removed.

“This is impossible with our usual method of minimally invasive lung surgery as it is too difficult, but with the Da Vinci robot to help us with the delicate stitching, we managed this and also managed to preserve the whole of her left lung.

“The only alternative would have been to create a 25cm chest wound to do the operation the conventional way but then Gemma would not have been able to lift or carry her baby for six weeks, so we wanted to go the extra mile to get her back home as quickly as possible to her two children.”

Gemma is recovering well and was home in four days due to the minimally invasive procedure.

She added: “The short stay in hospital flew by and I can’t thank the staff enough for what they, and the robot, have done for me. It was great to be back with Finlay, his two-year-old brother Henry and my partner Daniel so soon after the procedure. I feel a hundred times better than I did just a few weeks ago.”

Mr Dunning concluded: “The benefits of robotic lung surgery have been immense in the short time that we have been performing this surgery and together with Newcastle we are the first unit to offer this kind of surgery in the UK.”