Healthcare: On the Agenda - Robots perform surgery on man

In a nutshell

A Canadian man has become the first person in the world to undergo surgery performed entirely by robots. Medics at Montreal General Hospital used an anesthesia robot, nicknamed McSleepy, to put the patient under, then used the DaVinci robot to remove the man's prostate gland.

How does it work?

Dr Armen Aprikian and his team of surgeons operated the robotic arms, which rotate through 360 degrees, from a workstation via video control with 3D HD image quality. McSleepy is a software system that directs infusion pumps in a patient's vein to release specifically timed and measured doses of drugs that induce sleepiness, control pain and relax muscles during an operation.

The system also provides continuous feedback on how the patient is responding to the drugs as surgery progresses.

What is the background?

McSleepy has been available since 2008, but DaVinci is a newer addition and was only put into operation this summer. This was the first time the two were combined.

PR strategy

A press release sent out by Montreal General Hospital press officer Pascal Zamprelli was distributed to news agencies throughout Canada and the US, which passed it to their European offices.

Media coverage

More than 60 different websites and newspapers worldwide ran the story, including the Daily, Mail, The Daily Telegraph, Sky and Reuters.

220k - non-emergency operations carried out in UK during 2009*

£750k - The cost of a DaVinci 'robot surgeon'.

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