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UK Hospital Performs Heart Surgery Using Robotic Arm

Surgeons at the St. Mary's Hospital in London, have used a robot to carry out an intricate life-saving heart operation.

Over 20 patients have been operated on with the robot, which is only one of four in use in the world.

According to the BBC, the robotic arm is used to guide thin wires through blood vessels in the heart to treat a fast or irregular heartbeat. Doctors claim that it will reduce risks in patients and increase the number of procedures they can carry out.

During the procedure, known as catheter ablation, several thin wires and tubes are inserted through a vein in the groin and guided into the heart where they deliver an electric current to specific areas of heart muscle. The electric current destroys tiny portions of heart tissue which cause an abnormal heartbeat.

With the Sensei robot, surgeons use a joystick on a computer console to more accurately position and control the wires, which often need to be placed in locations that are difficult to reach.

In the future the system could be automated so the robot guides the wires to a point in the heart selected by the doctor from images on a computer screen, says the BBC.

When done by hand, the operation is highly skilled and a shortage of clinicians able to carry out the surgery means only ten of people with the condition, called atrial fibrillation, are treated this way.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair underwent such an operation in 2004.

Around 50,000 people develop atrial fibrillation, which is a major cause of strokes and heart failure, every year and it has been calculated to cost the National Health Service (NHS) almost one percent of its entire annual budget.

Numbers are expected to increase even more due to an ageing population, a rising number of people with chronic heart disease and better diagnosis.

St Mary's consultant cardiologist, Dr W yn Davies, was quoted as saying that more centres are required to deal with such complex surgeries.

He added that full automation was a few years away, but he could envisage a scenario where a skilled operator could oversee multiple operations happening at once.


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