AIIMS performs India’s ‘first’ robotic chest surgery


New Delhi : Ela Srivastava had been suffering from double vision, chewing problem and weakness in the nervous system, but no more – thanks to All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) doctors and a four-arm robot.

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“It’s the first robotic chest surgery in India,” claimed Arvind Kumar, professor of surgery at AIIMS.

“In the last four days (since Saturday) we have performed chest surgeries on seven patients using the robot and have achieved complete success. This is a milestone for Indian medical fraternity,” Kumar told IANS.

All these patients were suffering from Myasthenia Gravis, a disease characterized by nervous and muscular weakness, walking and chewing problems, and double vision. To cure the disease, the thymus gland needs to be removed.

“The thymus gland is deep inside the chest. Earlier, we used to tear apart the ribs or the sternum bone for the operation. But now with the robotic assistance, the same operation can be effectively performed by three 1-cm size incisions on the left side of the chest,” explained Kumar, who performed all the seven surgeries.

“I am feeling a little better now and there was no chewing problem,” said Ela Srivastava, 21, who underwent the surgery Sunday.

Srivastava, a science graduate student from Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, had been feeling almost numb since February. “Just 48 hours after I was operated upon, I could walk on my own,” she said.

Nisha, from Moradabad in Uttar Pradseh, was suffering from the disease for seven years but is feeling a lot better now after her surgery assisted by the robot.

Kumar said that patients can be completely cured in a few months after the surgery.

“The surgery takes almost three to four hours and AIIMS charges nothing for the treatment,” Kumar told IANS.

N.P. Gupta, head of the urology department, said the AIIMS has been conducting cancer prostate robotic surgeries for the last two years but the chest surgery using a robot was a new feat for the institution.

The Da-Vinci S robot has already helped doctors perform more than 255 urologic surgeries.

Gupta said the chest surgeries were performed with assistance from J.C. Rueckert, a Germany-based surgeon.

Kumar said doctors sitting inside a special cubicle manage the robot. Of its four arms, two perform surgery, one holds a camera and the fourth is available for any other assistance. A high-resolution camera gives a 3D image of the relevant body part.

Gupta explained that a chest surgery reduces the post-operative pain and overall recovery period by almost seven times.