Australian-first robotic surgery training academy

Robotic surgery being undertaken at the Epworth Hospital. Picture: Epworth HealthCare.

By JORDYN GRUBISIC 

The Victorian Government has announced plans to develop an academy for surgeons to train in robotic surgery.   

The Australian Prostate Centre plans to build the Australian Medical Robotics Academy with $2 million provided by the state. It would be completed by late next year.

Victorian Health Minister Jill Hennessy said the Victorian Government hoped robotic surgery would become more common throughout Victoria and Australia.

“This facility will usher in a new age of surgery that will change the lives of patients from right around the world,” she said in a press release.

Surgical robots are mostly used in large-scale surgeries such as abdominal and gynaecological procedures, with intricate operations such as eye surgery only recently being pioneered.

Associate Professor Declan Murphy, consultant urological surgeon and robotic surgeon at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and Epworth Hospital, said the use of robotics had increased so significantly at the Epworth that the hospital had invested in six new da Vinci robots.

Urological surgeon Declan Murphy. Picture: Declan Murphy

Robot manufacturer da Vinci describes their instruments as being more flexible than a human hand.

Under the full control of a surgeon, the technology translates the operator’s hand manoeuvres into tiny, precise movements in the patient.

Prof Murphy said there were several benefits of robotic surgery over open or keyhole surgery, including “3D HD vision, magnified [vision], extraordinary advanced surgical instruments, tremor filtration [and] image fluorescence”.

He said there was also less blood loss during surgery and a “faster return to normal activity” for patients.

Monash postgraduate biomedical robotics engineering student Xuananh Nguyen said he was designing components for the next generation of surgical robots.

He is developing a device to stabilise the surgeon’s hands during surgery.

He said this would lead to less shaking by the robotic arms, minimising the risk of error, as this was one of the problems with the current robotic technology.

Biomedical robotics engineer Xuananh Nguyen. 

Mr Nguyen frequently collaborates with Monash Medical Centre to teach trainee surgeons how to use robots.

“We design some very simple exercises to make [the surgeons] familiar with the robot to move it from point A to point B exactly,” he said.   

The academy will feature other training exercises in the use of robots, such as surgical simulators that will provide feedback on the efficiency of their movements and errors.

Ms Hennessey said the government was putting  Victoria at the forefront of the highest standards of surgical training.

“The world’s brightest medical minds will travel here from all over the world to learn new skills,” she said.