Home Bots & Brains Fully robotic lymph node transplant at UZ Brussels

Fully robotic lymph node transplant at UZ Brussels

by Marco van der Hoeven

A team at UZ Brussel Hospital has successfully conducted the world’s first dual robotic surgery to treat lymphoedema following breast cancer surgery. This operation utilized both the Da Vinci Xi and MMI’s Symani surgical systems, marking a significant advancement in the treatment of this condition.

Dr. Martijn Schoneveld, an abdominal surgeon, and the plastic and reconstructive surgery team, led by Professor Moustapha Hamdi, Head of the Department of Plastic Surgery at UZ Brussel, performed a fully robotic lymph node transplant. Dr. Schoneveld explained that the Da Vinci Xi system was used to delicately remove part of the peritoneal fold at the stomach level. This system provides enhanced dexterity and precision, significantly minimizing scarring and damage to vital tissues.

Following this, Professor Hamdi detailed that the harvested tissue was then transplanted to the armpit using the MMI’s Symani system, which is specially designed for micro and super microsurgical procedures. This stage of the surgery is crucial for facilitating lymphatic drainage from the upper limb, aiming to alleviate future swelling and pain associated with lymphoedema.

Professor Alexandru Nistor, a plastic surgeon involved in the procedure, highlighted the capabilities of the Symani system in connecting very fine anatomical structures, such as blood vessels and lymphatic vessels, which can be less than 0.8 millimeters in diameter. The system’s precision is essential for ensuring successful outcomes in such intricate surgeries.

This procedure represents a continuation of UZ Brussel’s leadership in robotic-assisted medical treatments. The hospital was the first in Europe to perform a robotic-assisted lymph node transplantation in 2018. The recent advancements in technology, particularly in robotic microsurgery, have enabled surgeons to perform complex procedures with greater precision, reducing the risk of tissue damage and enhancing patient recovery times.

Lymphoedema, characterized by swelling in an arm or leg, remains a pressing quality of life issue, particularly among breast cancer survivors. The condition arises when lymph fluid accumulates in tissues due to disrupted lymphatic vessels or node removal. It is estimated that up to 30% of breast cancer patients may experience lymphoedema, leading to significant functional impairments. This latest development in robotic-assisted surgery at UZ Brussel offers new hope for those suffering from this debilitating condition.

Photo: The team that performed the operation succesfully: Dr. Schoneveld, Prof. Nistor, Dr. Giunta, Prof. Hamdi. Credit UZ Brussel

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