Robotic advancements are supporting improved patient care
"There's a famous saying; the future's already here, it's just unevenly distributed."
So says Dr Brett Fritsch, an orthopaedic knee surgeon at RPA Hospital who is helping to pioneer the use of surgical robotics in Sydney Local Health District.
But the saying, coined by sci-fi author William Gibson, does not apply to the District, with RPA a leader in offering the latest robotic surgeries to public and private patients alike, Dr Fritsch said.
"We've got robots in the public system at RPA that I'm not sure are in any other public hospital in the country," he said.
"We want to make that access available to everybody and everyone can come to RPA, public, private, from anywhere."
Dr Fritsch was one of dozens of speakers at the Surgical Robotics + Innovation Summit hosted by the District.
Hundreds of clinicians and robotics industry leaders from across Australia, the US and the UK travelled to Sydney to meet and share ideas and data from the latest research in surgical robotics.
Delegates heard from speakers across a variety of specialties and were able to see and try out the latest robotic surgical tools for themselves.
The event was convened by Dr Scott Leslie and Dr Ruban Thanigasalam, both urological surgeons at RPA with an expertise in robotic surgery.
"What we want to highlight (with the Summit) is the advancements we're making in surgical robotics and innovations and the benefits we'll see in those innovations for our patients," said Dr Leslie.
The patient benefits are manifold when compared with traditional surgical techniques, he explained.
"They're out of hospital a lot quicker, they're back to work and normal activities in a much shorter period of time," Dr Leslie said.
"You can see first-hand the difference you've made for them by undertaking their surgery in a minimally invasive way with robotic technology."
Among those who've benefitted from these innovations in the District is Darren Ralph, a patient who shared his story at the Summit.
After being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2019, he chose to undergo a robotic prostatectomy at Chris O'Brien Lifehouse.
It was "hands down" the right decision for him.
"Literally two nights in hospital and you're home, you're walking around the house, you're bending over, you're squatting," Darren said.
"You can do all the stuff you'd do around the home, so it's an amazing recovery."
And it's not just the patients who are seeing the advantages of robotic surgeries.
"It's also better for the surgeon," said Associate Professor Raewyn Campbell, a rhinologist and endoscopic skull base surgeon at RPA who was among the speakers at the Summit.
"Robotics is more ergonomic, so we don't hurt ourselves as much as if we were to do the other approaches without the robot," she said.
Like Dr Fritsch, she believes that the future is already here.
"It's almost already mainstream. The robotics industry is expected to be more and more involved in the medical profession over the next few years," she said.
It's a sentiment echoed by Dr Leslie, who anticipates the increased use of advancements like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and augmented reality in surgery.
"These things are no longer science fiction," said Dr Leslie.
"I think with these additional technologies to the robotic surgeries we already have at RPA, we're going to offer even more benefit to our patients."