Colchester theatre staff help pioneer 3D surgery

24 January 2013

Theatre staff at Colchester General Hospital are among the first in the country to use 3D technology to help with laparoscopic (keyhole) operations.

So far three operations have been carried out where surgeons and other staff, including operating department practitioners (ODPs), wear 3D glasses to look at the patient on a 3D monitor during surgery.

The first procedure was a prostatectomy (removal of the prostate) by Mr John Corr and Mr Rowan Casey, who are both consultant urological surgeons.

Mr Corr said: "When you do a standard laparoscopic prostatectomy, you insert a camera and instruments through small cuts or ports in the patient and then do the procedure by looking at the patient on a large screen, which is like watching a normal television.

"However, the 3D system generates images on a 3D monitor that are true to life so it is much more like operating with the naked eye as in conventional open surgery, when no screens are used.

"Although so far I've been involved in only one procedure using this technology, our initial impressions have been extremely favourable - I am very excited about it."

Mr Corr said it would take staff time to become familiar with 3D surgery but he was confident it had potential.

His patient, Jeremiah O'Donnell, 72, of Jameson Road, Clacton, said: "I was amazed that they used 3D technology for the operation.

"From my point of view, it went very well. I had the operation on the Thursday and was doing physio in a hospital gym the next day and home on the Sunday evening.

"It was a big operation which lasted 4½ hours but in many ways it doesn't feel like I've been through surgery!"

Mr Tan Arulampalam, a consultant surgeon at Colchester General Hospital, has used the 3D technology in two operations - a cholecystectomy (gall bladder removal) and a stoma reversal procedure known as a reversal of Hartmann's which allows the patient to open their bowels in the normal way and to dispense with a bag.

"The depth perception that 3D laparoscopy offers allows the surgeon greater accuracy while dissecting," he said.

The system being tried out at Colchester General Hospital is made by Karl Storz, a global company set up in 1945 to produce and sell medical instruments and devices.

Colchester General Hospital became involved after the company invited theatre teams there to try out "The Karl Storz 3D System", which costs about £100,000 for each kit, consisting of a 3D monitor and an integrated 3D telescope and camera unit.

Richard Atkinson, Systems Development Manager for Karl Storz Endoscopy (UK), said exact depth perception inside the human body was essential in many surgical procedures.

"The technology opens up a whole new dimension in imaging without compromising ease of use and is particularly valuable for activities such as suturing and knotting," he said.

"We believe it will hopefully reduce patient stays, improving patient outcomes and also reduce the learning curve for new surgical procedures."

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