First robotic nephrectomy in South Africa

Netcare Waterfall Hospital

Surgical robot used for to operate on kidney cancer patient for first time in SA

State-of-the-art system a boon for cancer medicine

Wednesday, 22 April 2015 Advanced robotic technology that enables surgeons to perform highly complex surgical procedures through small incisions in the skin, has been used to perform a radical nephrectomy, the surgical removal of a kidney to treat cancer, for the very first time in Africa.

Dr Marius Conradie, a urologist who practises at Netcare Waterfall City Hospital and who performed the surgery, says that the patient’s right kidney, which was badly diseased, was successfully removed in an operation using the state-of-the-art da Vinci Si surgical robotic technology. Just 24-hours after the operation the patient was moved from intensive care to a general ward where he is mobilizing well and walking around already.

“The use of this technology in this new role is an important development in the field of urology in South Africa. It was a great honour to have successfully performed the first procedure of its type on the continent.  Also part of the surgical team was the world renowned robotic prostatectomy expert, Dr Greg Boustead,” observes Dr Conradie.

The da Vinci Si system consists of a surgeon’s console offering three-dimensional, high definition display and a patient side cart featuring robotic arms with wristed surgical instruments. These instruments are controlled by the surgeon and improve and steady the natural motion of the hands.

“The robotic procedure has many advantages over traditional surgical techniques and enabled us to perform the procedure in a minimally invasive manner with a extremely high degree of accuracy. The smaller incisions required for a da Vinci procedure mean that the patient suffers reduced blood loss during surgery and that there is a lower risk of wound infection. In addition, da Vinci patients usually have less postoperative pain and are able to return to their lives much sooner than they would after open surgery,” observes Dr Conradie.

“Despite the fact that the removal of a kidney is a major procedure, this particular patient is already fully mobile, is chatting to staff at the hospital and is in good spirits. By all appearances the operation was a complete success.”

“The patient was so impressed by the outstanding results that have been achieved using the technology worldwide that he insisted on the da Vinci surgery option even although he had to fund the operation himself. We expect him to be able to return home on later this week.”

Not only does the da Vinci technology enable minimally invasive surgical techniques, but it also provides high-quality 3D images of the kidney during the procedure enabling the trained surgeon a high degree of control and highly accurate removal of any diseased tissue. This means that side effects are kept to a minimum and cancer control is improved.

Jacques du Plessis, managing director of the Netcare hospital division, suggests that the procedure marks an “important milestone in the history of South African urological medicine”. He believes the da Vinci robotic technology is an important and much-needed new tool in the battle against kidney and other cancers.

“Up until now the da Vinci Si robotic technology has only been used to perform radical prostectomy, the surgical removal of the prostate gland, and it has been highly successful in this role both locally and internationally,” confirms Dr Greg Boustead, who is the consultant urological and robotic surgeon and consultant advisor in robotic surgery to Netcare hospitals.

“The considerable potential of the technology to assist with a variety of minimally invasive procedures in urology and in other medical fields such as gynaecology, has been recognised ever since the system was first introduced at Netcare Waterfall City Hospital in Midrand, and Netcare Christiaan Barnard Memorial Hospital in Cape Town last year. The treatment of kidney cancer is an important new application for the da Vinci robotic technology in South Africa,” he suggests.

Dr Conradie agrees, noting that kidney cancer is not uncommon, affecting approximately 190,000 people worldwide every year. He says that the disease can be cured in the great majority of cases if it is detected early and treated appropriately.

“Each kidney cancer case differs and treatment depends upon factors such as the type of cancer that is present, the extent of disease, and the patient's condition. However, if the disease is detected before it can spread to other organs, it can usually be successfully treated.”

Surgery is the main treatment for most kidney cancers and may involve the removal of only the diseased part of the kidney, which is known as a partial nephrectomy, or it may require a radical nephrectomy, the complete removal of the organ. In this particular case the disease had advanced to the stage that the entire kidney had to be removed, states Dr Conradie.

 “This procedure demonstrates that in trained hands, the da Vinci robotic system can successfully be used to treat kidney cancer with fewer risks than are associated with traditional open surgery. We consequently expect a growing demand for the technology within fields such as nephrology into the future,” adds Jacques du Plessis.

“We are excited by the increasing number of treatment options that the highly versatile da Vinci system is making available to our patients in a variety of areas of medicine. The introduction of this technology has been driven by Netcare’s commitment to continue creating an environment for specialists at our hospitals to offer their patients treatments that have been proven internationally to enhance medical outcomes,” concludes Du Plessis.



Issued by:           Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare
Contact :               Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney and Sarah Wilson

Telephone:        (011) 469 3016
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