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Robots transform surgery

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A UK-based maker of surgical devices looks to expand in Asia with Hong Kong being the first launch market.



Painting in a bottle is an ancient Chinese craft where artists insert tiny angled brushes through bottlenecks to create masterpieces using the inside of the clear glass as a “canvas”.

Surgeons face a similar challenge when trying to reach the unhealthy tissue they want to mend without having to break the entire bottle, execute the artwork and then painstakingly repair the container.

In recent years, keyhole surgery has become more and more common, and is strongly favoured by surgeons, hospitals and patients as it brings fewer complications and shorter hospital stays than open surgery does.

Non-invasive access

A surgeon sits or stands at a console to operate the robots

In keyhole operations, a surgeon stands or sits at a console and controls the robotics arms which help to conduct keyhole procedures (through small incisions).

This process could be facilitated with a robotic system supplied by CMR Surgical, a United Kingdom-based medical technology business with plans to use Hong Kong as a springboard to such markets as Mainland China and Southeast Asia.

Per Vegard Nerseth
Per Vegard Nerseth, CEO at CMR Surgical

The Versius Surgical Robotic System is much more than refinements of the traditional scalpels and forceps, according to CEO Per Vegard Nerseth, who said machine learning and data has the potential to help standardise surgery and ultimately improve surgical outcomes.

“With Versius, we already get technical data from the robot, as well as having a clinical registry that is there to help ensure patient safety. Through being able to analyse this data, we can improve surgical training, and support the delivery of improved surgical outcomes – that’s where I see the industry going.”

He said robotics could extend the reach of keyhole surgery.

“Surgical robotics can empower health systems by supporting surgeons to do more keyhole procedures. Performing keyhole surgery is technically challenging, and ergonomically straining for the surgeon. Surgical robotics can help overcome these barriers – enabling more keyhole surgery for patients,” he said.

“Through the use of surgical robots, surgeons can more easily deliver keyhole surgery, and the resulting benefits to patients,” he said.

“To date, a significant proportion of the use of surgical robotics has been in urology, but with Versius, we are seeing strong uptake across gynaecology and colorectal surgery, as well as in urology,” Mr Nerseth said.

Strong demand

operating unit
A single operating unit

The proportion of keyhole surgeries has risen strongly in recent years amid a massive demand for such procedures, he noted.

“There is a high unmet need for keyhole surgery, with over 50% of people around the world not getting the benefit of this type of surgery – including shorter length of stay in hospital, reduced blood loss and reduced risk of complications,” he noted.

“There is also a growing pressure on health systems around the world, so hospitals are keen to invest in new technologies that can help to deliver good surgical outcomes, while relieving pressures on the system, such as by reducing the number of days a patient spends in hospital.

“The surgical robotics market has always been under-penetrated, but due to the high unmet patient need we are seeing a great uptake of surgical robotics around the world. The global surgical robotics market has been growing at 20% the past 10 years and we expect this rate of growth to continue.”

Global footprint

Mr Nerseth said CMR had launched the system across Europe, the UK, Australia, India and the Middle East.

“We are seeing significant interest in the system with public and private hospitals adopting it to deliver more keyhole surgeries to patients,” he said. “The versatile, small and cost-effective option offered by Versius is proving attractive to hospitals and surgeons around the world.”

The company plans to expand further into Asia through Hong Kong, where it recently completed trials and demonstrations at the Prince of Wales Hospital.

“Hong Kong is an important market, with hospitals keen to adopt innovation, but it is only the starting point for our expansion across Asia Pacific as we move into Singapore and Japan in due course,” he said. “[Mainland] China is also an important market.”

Due to its various advantages, Hong Kong is often used by international companies as a link to markets in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations region and the mainland, especially the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area.

Related links
CMR Surgical

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