A robot and three teams of surgeons worked simultaneously on a single patient to perform what is thought to be a first-of-its-kind cancer operation, slashing recovery time by a third.
The astonishing procedure, involving 14 surgeons, was carried out in July on a married father-of-one with advanced rectal cancer.
The experts behind it hope the breakthrough will throw open the doors for further operations involving more than one surgeon working at the same time.
About 43,000 Britons are diagnosed with bowel cancer each year. The majority of cases occur in the rectum.
Symptoms include changes in bowel patterns and bleeding, and more than 50 per cent of cases are diagnosed at a late stage when extensive surgery may be required.
The astonishing procedure, involving 14 surgeons, was carried out in July on a married father-of-one with advanced rectal cancer. Pictured: An illustration of the procedure
An example of the type of surgery that may be needed is pelvic extenteration, in which the organs in the pelvic region, including the bladder, rectum, prostate and part of the kidney, are removed to stop the disease spreading.
It requires the expertise of at least three surgical teams, and the patient is left with colostomy and urinary bags for life.
Until now the operation has been done in shifts. One team follows the other, with a bowel doctor going in first, followed by a prostate specialist and finally plastic surgeons to repair the damage.
But doctors at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital took the decision to do all three stages simultaneously with a £1 million Da Vinci Si robot.
The procedure took less than ten hours, compared to the 12 hours required when done step by step.
But the greatest success of the operation was the recovery time. Pelvic extenteration patients typically spend three weeks in hospital – this patient was there for just seven days.
Colorectal surgeon Irshad Shaikh said the idea started as ‘just a thought’ but quickly became a concrete plan when he discussed with his colleagues the potential advantages.
The experts behind it hope the breakthrough will throw open the doors for further operations involving more than one surgeon working at the same time. Pictured: Stock image
He says: ‘Pelvic extenterations are extremely traumatic because so much tissue has to be removed. Working together, we realised we could make the procedure less