Cancer sufferer first in UK to have bladder replaced with a new one created inside his body by a robot
The bladder was constructed from the patient's own bowel tissueThe Da Vinci robot is so dexterous it can peel a grape



10:11 GMT, 20 March 2012

A cancer sufferer has become the first person in the UK to benefit from a robotically-constructed bladder.

Ken Harries, 61, was diagnosed with
bladder cancer last May and became the first to undergo the pioneering treatment in October.

Surgeons at Southmead Hospital, in Bristol, used a robot to remove Mr Harries' cancerous bladder through tiny incisions before replacing it with a substitute created from his own bowel tissue.

The operating team at Southmead Hospital with the Da Vinci Robot: It can perform far less invasive surgery

The operating team at Southmead Hospital with the Da Vinci Robot: It can perform far less invasive surgery

The manufacturing manager, from Downside, near Bath, has now successfully recovered from the UK-first operation.

Mr Harries said: 'Immediately after the operation I
was actually out of bed the following day, not for long, but I was up,
and each day you did a bit more.

'I suppose I was a little bit shocked when they said I’d be the first but that soon disappeared and after discussions with the wife it was a very simple choice.

'The only way I could look at the cancer was to say ‘I am going to beat this’, and I am so glad I decided to go through with the operation.'

Following an operation to remove some of the cancerous tumour that was preventing his bladder from working properly, Mr Harries was referred to a consultant at Southmead Hospital.

Nimble: The Da Vinci robot is so sensitive is can peel a grape

Nimble: The Da Vinci robot is so sensitive is can peel a grape

He was told he would have to have an operation but was given the option of undergoing keyhole surgery and having the neo-bladder created.

'Thinking it through, I will be honest, my initial reaction was to go for the tried and tested route, as at the time I was also told I would be the first one to have this procedure in the UK,' he said.

'But the reason I changed my mind was because the team at Southmead just filled you with confidence.

'When you consider what the team did, robotically, taking away a complete bladder and other bits and pieces and then re-building it – it sounds almost science-fiction, but now I feel as though nothing has changed.'

Five small incisions were made to Mr Harries – the largest of which was just two inches long.

The father of two said: 'You can hardly see a scar or anything, it’s unbelievable, but that’s the whole idea of the robotics – it’s far less invasive and the amount of time you need to heal up generally, to me, well, within a couple of weeks there was nothing left really. It was an unbelievable scenario.'

Mr Harries, who returned to work in January, said the advances in medical techniques were 'amazing'.

'The strides that are being made, this is the way forward, and I was fortunate to have this service right here in Bristol,' he said.

Ken Harries

Consultant urologist Edward Rowe

Pioneering: Patient Ken Harries (left) agreed to the treatment because the urology team led by Consultant Edward Rowe (right) filled him with confidence

The procedure used to be performed manually in open surgery by surgeons creating a new bladder for cancer patients who had to have the organ removed.

But now Southmead Hospital is making neo-bladders robotically from the patient’s own bowel tissue inside their body which function much as a normal bladder does.

The keyhole surgery is less invasive because the hospital’s Da Vinci robot has greater precision and the procedure as a whole has a faster recovery time for patients.

The 1.5 million surgical robot – which a surgeon controls from a nearby console – is so precise it can even peel a grape.

The procedure is being carried out by Southmead’s consultant urologists Edward Rowe and Anthony Koupparis.

Mr Rowe said: 'This is the first time in the UK the whole procedure is performed through keyhole surgery using the Da Vinci robot system.

'Having removed the bladder containing the tumour, we reconstruct a new bladder from the patient’s own bowel and attach this internally to the patient’s urethra, allowing them to pass urine normally.

'Traditionally this is a major operation with a large incision but we hope that by using this minimal access route we can decrease the trauma to the patient, enabling them to obtain a faster recovery and return to normal activity.

'Patients can be home from hospital following this type of surgery within four to seven days and in six to eight weeks they can return to a normal quality of life.

'Our abilities to carry out urological procedures robotically is expanding all the time and we are developing a real expertise in this area.'

The robot was used in Southmead Hospital in 2008 when it became the first hospital in the South West to use a Da Vinci robot to carry out prostate removal for cancer patients.

Since then the hospital has carried out more than 600 of these prostectomies.

It is now being used for radical cystectomy and partial nephrectomy – the removal of small kidney tumours.