Training the nation for robotic surgery

Winter 2013

In January, London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC) was designated as Canada’s national training centre for robotic surgery. The training centre will be a core component of LHSC’s innovative Canadian Surgical Technologies and Advanced Robotics (CSTAR) program, long recognized globally for its leading work in surgical robotics, minimally invasive surgical techniques, advanced simulation capabilities and related research and innovation.

The official Canadian training centre designation comes from Intuitive Surgical Inc., manufacturer of the world’s most technically advanced and widely used surgical robot, the da Vinci Surgical System. LHSC is Canada’s only official surgical robotics training centre and joins an elite group of 22 such centres worldwide. 

“Being designated a national training centre for robotic surgery is the highest acknowledgement of our longstanding commitment to robotic surgery innovation and our expertise as a simulation and surgical skills training centre.” says Dr. Christopher Schlachta, medical director for CSTAR. “It is particularly rewarding to know that through the national training centre, LHSC will not only have a measureable impact on quality and safety of patient care here in our region, but also across the entire country.”

Since robotically assisted procedures can be performed through very small incisions, patients often experience a number of benefits when compared to open surgical procedures, including less trauma, lower risk of infection, a shorter hospital stay and faster overall recovery time.

“The benefits for patients who receive minimally invasive robotic surgery continue to grow as the technologies advance,” noted Dr. Schlachta. “The two new da Vinci Surgical Systems at LHSC enable surgeons to operate with greater dexterity and substantially improved clarity thanks to their high-definition (HD) capability.”

Surgeons from across Canada will now come to LHSC to receive training on the very latest in robotic surgical systems rather than traveling to centres in the United States, which was previously their only option. CSTAR’s plan is to train approximately 50 surgeons during this first year and potentially double that number in the following years. This in turn will benefit patients across the country, increasing the availability of minimally invasive procedures for Canadians.

“Although LHSC has been developing expertise in robotic surgery for more than a decade, Canada is just starting to embrace the technology as an improvement on more invasive open surgery,” says Dr. Schlachta. “As such, we anticipate significant growth in the number of robotic systems in Canada over the coming years and it is exciting to be the hub of the training for this emerging area of innovation in Canadian health care.”

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Dr. Christopher Schlachta, medical director for CSTAR, operates LHSC’s newest robot
Dr. Christopher Schlachta in the operating room at LHSC’s University Hospital
Close Up: A sample of the tiny components used for practicing techniques during robotic surgery training