Robotic surgeons at The James Cook University Hospital can now remove lung tumours through one single incision.
Cardiothoracic surgeon Joel Dunning and his team became the first in the UK to perform the pioneering procedure thanks to a masterclass from world-famous thoracic surgeon Diego Gonzalez Rivas.
The advanced technique – known as uniportal robotic surgery – ensures patients have a quicker and more comfortable recovery, with many up and walking about the same day.
Joel said: “Diego has created a new technique, literally in the last six months, to fuse robotic surgery with what he does, which is single incision uniportal surgery.
“What we have normally done in the past is five incisions in the chest, but he can do what we do with five with just one.”
Diego said: “By using only three robotic arms with the help of an assistant we can do the robotic surgery through a single hole without the need for more incisions. We have created a new approach which is less invasive so it’s fantastic.”
Polly Marsh was one of the first patients to benefit from the new cutting-edge technique at the Middlesbrough hospital.
Polly, 51, had tumours on her lungs that had been identified as potential secondary cancers so needed to be removed and tested.
“It’s all very cutting edge,” said Polly. “Initially I went into a scanner where all my tumours were marked with a day-glow dye, so that they could actually see what they were doing.
“Three of them were marked up, but they actually took five out, so I was delighted.
“I would imagine if somebody had told me I was going to have lung surgery and have five different areas of my lung cut out I would have thought I’d be out cold for ages, but I was up the same day. I’m really pleased with the recovery.”
Although she is under orders to take it easy for a couple of weeks Polly hopes to get back to running following her successful procedure.
Kickboxer Graham Fletcher was also one of the first on Joel’s operating list and he hoped the uniportal robotic surgery would help get him back to training as soon as possible.
“This is my third dose of cancer,” said Graham, 60. “I had testicular cancer in 2015 and then it moved into the lymph nodes in my stomach. The last time when they cut me open I took two months to heal, I had to roll out of bed.
“This time I was concerned they were taking out so much lung it would impact on my kickboxing and my lifestyle, but I was up and about the next day.
“I was hungry as anything, but I had two meals, and lots of cups of tea, and I just bounced back.
“I thought I’d be out of breath and needing to rest, but I actually feel like I did before I went in.”
Graham said he trained quite hard to get his lung strength up before the procedure.
“I box, I kick box, I do a lot of training. They said four weeks before I can train again, but I’ll see how it goes by next week!
"I’ve got a tiny little cut under my arm but other than that I feel great. I’m full of beans again. Absolutely raring to go!”