All-clear for robotic surgery patient

Five years after undergoing the UK’s first Da Vinci Xi Robotic oesophagectomy operation, Mark Howell, a patient at The Royal Marsden, has been given the all-clear.

Patient wearing a mask with his doctor
Mark with Consultant Mr Asif Chaudry

Mark's story

Just a few months after he was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in 2016, the 56-year-old plumber received the pioneering surgery by Consultant Surgeon, Mr Asif Chaudry. Mr Chaudry used the Da Vinci Xi robot to perform the procedure. Mark also received a course of chemotherapy, split into two phases. 

The Da Vinci Xi surgical robot, which was funded by The Royal Marsden Cancer Charity, has extended vision, giving surgeons greater precision in their work by providing a magnified, three-dimensional view inside a patient’s body.

The surgeon controls the robot’s computerised arms, which can grip scissors and other mechanised instruments, mimicking human hand and wrist movement and providing greater accuracy when performing minimally invasive operations.  

Mark was thrilled to be the first patient in the UK to be treated and then cured of oesophageal cancer with this ground-breaking surgery.

Patient, Mark, smiling in hospital with his wife

He said: “I consider myself very lucky that the timing was right for me to have the robotic operation. I recovered much quicker than I would have with the traditional open surgery. I have been looked after so well by Mr Chaudry and the team over the last five years. I feel so relieved.” 

Mr Chaudry explained that the robotic surgery programme at The Royal Marsden has benefitted hundreds of patients with oesophageal and gastric cancers since Mark’s operation.

Mr Chaudry has also helped to train robotic surgeons to do operations in cancer centres in the UK and around the world.

He said: “I am so pleased I have been able to sign Mark off and give him the all-clear. Not only has he been cured of his cancer, but he recovered more quickly after the keyhole robotic operation. He was back to work as a plumber in less than three months and was playing golf after six weeks, which may have been many more months post open surgery. The traditional operation would have required a large cut in the abdomen and chest, with the removal of part of a rib to remove cancer from the major organs at the core of the body.” 

Reflecting on the technology, Mr Chaudry added: "What's amazing is how immersive that process is. I can now actually zoom in and get closer and closer to the structures I want to dissect and apply very controlled levels of energy to achieve the best for the patient, without harming the tissues that surround the area.” 

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