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Prime Minister views innovative health technology at Imperial College London

The benefits of applying technological know how to patient care were demonstrated by Prime Minister Gordon Brown at Imperial College London yesterday.

Imperials Rector, Sir Richard Sykes, and Professor of Surgery and Department of Health Parliamentary Under Secretary, Lord Darzi, took the PM on a tour of the Colleges newly launched Institute of Biomedical Engineering.

The Institute is at the forefront of medical innovation, drawing together scientists, clinicians and engineers for research focussed on technologies in systems biology, materials, imaging, nanotechnology, bionics, biomechanics and tissue engineering.

During the tour, the PM took a special interest in the virtual operating theatre used for cardiac micro surgery in the Medical Imaging and Robotics Room.

The Colleges Director of Medical Imaging, Professor Guang-Zhong Yang, discussed the potential advantages and applications of robotic surgical devices, such as the Da Vinci robot, whilst Lord Darzi, carried out a virtual medical procedure in front of Mr Brown.

With the aid of 3D vision, the robotic arms are manipulated remotely by a control pad and joystick, allowing surgeons to perform intricate surgical procedures with greatly enhanced vision, dexterity, precision and control.

The DaVinci robot is especially important for minimal invasive surgery - an area pioneered by Lord Darzi. Surgeons can operate through tiny incisions, which have less health impacts on patients and help to speed up recovery time.

Explaining the benefits of robotic surgical technology Professor Yang said:

"Minimal access surgery reduces the impact trauma of an operation on patients but it requires pinpoint accuracy and a very steady hand. Enabling the surgeon to operate via a robot represents the perfect marriage of human skill with technological advances in biomedical engineering."

Speaking about the important role that organisations like the Institute of Biomedical Engineering plays in healthcare innovation, Imperials Rector Sir Richard Sykes said:

"Institutes like this, which see scientists and medics of many different specialisms working side by side, are where the major improvements in patient care and quality of life are being made. It's greatly encouraging that the Prime Minister recognises that and wants to see for himself what Imperial is doing to make the vital breakthroughs that will transform healthcare for everyone."

This was the first visit by Mr Brown to a UK university since becoming Prime Minister. His visit follows the launch on Monday 1 October of the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, formed through the merger of Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust and St Mary's NHS Trust and integration with Imperial College, to become the UK's first Academic Health Science Centre. Professor Stephen Smith, Chief Executive of the new Trust and Principal of Imperial's Faculty of Medicine, also met Mr Brown.


Contact: Colin Smith
Imperial College London

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