London cancer patient, 31, saved by robot surgeon operated by doctor 4,700 miles away in pioneering op

A SERIOUSLY ill man’s life was saved in a revolutionary procedure that saw a cancer specialist operate a robotic arm thousands of miles away in the US.

Due to travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic, a 31-year-old man opted for a five-hour procedure involving a virtual arm named Da Vinci XI, to extract a 5cm tumour attached to two major blood vessels in his stomach.

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FRANCE-HEALTH-SURGERY-CANCER-ROBOTICSA file picture of the ‘Da Vinci Xi’ surgical robot arm that was used to operate on Mo TajerAFP - Getty
FILES-FRANCE-HEALTH-WOMENThe surgical robot has four articulated arms fitted with cameras and surgical instrumentsAFP or licensors

Archie Fernando, a consultant urological surgeon at Guy’s and St Thomas NHS Foundation Trust carried out the operation on Mo Tajer, 31, from West Hampstead, London on May 21.

With the help of augmented-reality technology, Ms Fernando was guided by Jim Porter, the medical director for robotic surgery at the Swedish Medical Centre in Seattle, who watched the proceedings from his living room 4,700 miles away in his pjamas.

Mr Porter, who is one of the world’s leading practitioners of laparoscopy, also known as keyhole abdominal surgery, was able to guide Ms Fernando in the London hospital through a complex system of incisions that started with the insertion of a tiny camera in Mr Tajer’s body.

Ms Fernando told the Sunday Times: “It was kind of like being the player on the tennis court and having the coach in the wings.

“I was doing the case, but he was making suggestions.”

The revolutionary surgery was a success and Mr Tajer, is already back on his feet.

"Every day I wake up and I feel stronger and stronger,” he said.

The 31-year-old was working as a Salesman at Harrods when he began experiencing symptoms. He was eventually diagnosed with testicular cancer and had four cycles of chemotherapy that shrank away most of the cancer.

But scans revealed a tumour had attached itself to the main artery that carries blood away from the heart in Tajer’s body and the inferior vena cava – the largest vein in the body.

Unable to fly to Seattle to consult with specialist Mr Porter during the Covid-19 crisis, Ms Fernando settled for a more remote consultation at Guy’s cancer centre.

The technologies involved in the surgey have previously been used to assist surgeons operating in war zones.

Ms Fernando used technology from Proximie, a company founded by Nadine Hachach-Haram, a consultant plastic surgeon and head of clinical innovation at Guy's and St Thomas.

Mr Porter told the Sunday Times this could be technology of “the future” while Ms Fernando described the procedure as “pioneering”.

In the operating room Ms Fernando was able to see how Porter used his fingers to indicate where incisions could be made with the robot arm.

This was the first time in the UK that such a significant tumour caused by testicular cancer had been removed by a robot after attaching to the body's two main blood vessels.

FILES-FRANCE-HEALTH-WOMENA presentation of the Da Vinci Xi surgical robot at the Gustave Roussy Institute, Europe’s leading cancer treatment centre, in Villejuif, south of ParisAFP or licensors

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