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  • Tygerberg becomes first public hospital to perform robotic surgery [PICS]

    Tygerberg becomes first public hospital to perform robotic surgery [PICS]

    Tygerberg Hospital in Cape Town, Western Cape became the first government institution to perform robotic surgery in South Africa on Tuesday, 22 February.


    The hospital launched its da Vinci surgical robotic programme on Tuesday. The two da Vinci Xi systems are the most advanced surgical robots available today.

    The Tygerberg system will be used by specialist surgeons in colorectal surgery, urology, gynaecology and hepatobiliary surgery.

    The Western Cape Government said the robotic system’s versatility will maximise the number of patients that will benefit from the technology. The main diseases that will be treated as part of the programme are colorectal, liver, kidney and bladder cancer and severe endometriosis in women.

    Western Cape Premier Alan Winde praised the provincial health department for putting innovation into practice.

    “It truly is an incredible feat that Tygerberg Hospital has become the first public hospital in South Africa to perform a robotic surgical procedure today. It is going to make a big difference in helping us recover our comprehensive healthcare services, which were impacted by the pandemic,” he said.


    The da Vinci surgical system at Tygerberg provides surgeons with an advanced set of instruments to use during robotic-assisted minimally invasive – or keyhole – surgery.

    The operation is not performed by a robot alone – the surgeon controls the procedure from a console via fibre optic cables and the system “translates” the surgeon’s hand movements in real-time.

    “The tiny surgical instruments move inside the patient like a human hand, but with a far greater procession and with a significantly greater range of motion,” explained the provincial government.

    Benefits of robot-assisted surgery include:

    • “Better visualisation and magnification of tissues by the da Vinci camera (facilitating more precise surgery).
    • Being able to do major surgery through multiple small incisions instead of a big skin incision, leading to less post-operative pain and a faster return to normal activities after surgery, when compared to standard “big incision” surgery.
    •  Fewer post-operative complications such as hernias.
    • Built-in visualisation systems that allow for checking the blood supply of an organ and thus decrease the chance of major complications when compared to traditional surgery.
    • Being able to see the operation in 3D, and thus have better depth perception when compared to traditional laparoscopic surgery, where the image is in 2D.”

    Provincial Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo said the launch of the system comes at just the right time – after the fourth wave – as it will allow patients to spend less time in hospital. Shorter hospital stays are also important to the health department because it means there will be more space to accommodate more patients.

    “While the focus has been more on COVID-19, now we are in the process of phasing in non-COVID illnesses. We are facing an insurmountable backlog but with this innovation, we have hope of catching up. I applaud the team of the hospital, well done,” said Mbombo.

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