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In an Asia first, robots aid in Thai brain surgery

May 09. 2017
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By The Nation

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Staff at Bangkok’s Ramathibodi Hospital have completed the first robotically assisted brain surgery ever performed in Asia. It was successfully conducted on a 77-year-old man with a two-centimetre-diameter brain tumour, the hospital announced on Monday.

“It is a success for the field of medicine in Thailand as well as Asia that the team was able to apply robotic technology in the surgery on a brain cancer patient to improve safety during the procedure and reduce the risk of complications afterward,” Dr Piyamitr Sritara, dean of medicine at Mahidol University’s Ramathibodi Hospital, said at a press conference. 

He cautioned, though, that such advanced technology is costly – adding about Bt100,000 to the usual cost of brain surgery – and is not yet covered in any Thai healthcare scheme since it requires close scrutiny by the medical team.

The technology and equipment cost Bt40 million and Thailand and Vietnam are the only countries in Southeast Asia to have the capability. 

Surgery Department chief Dr Wachira Kochakarn said the technology minimises injury and recovery time since the robot-guided incision is so much smaller. If the costly procedure was deemed necessary for a patient who couldn't afford it, he said, the hospital foundation would consider helping cover the cost.

Neurosurgery specialist Dr Sorayouth Chumnanvej said robotically assisted brain surgery allows for greater precision in procedures on patients with brain tumours, aneurysms and Parkinson’s disease.

He said the incision in the skull is less than three centimetres in diameter and in the scalp just one centimetre. Whereas such surgery typically allows for an area of error of 3-5 millimetres, robotic assistance reduces that to less than one millimetre. It also reduced the duration of surgery in this case to about half an hour and the patient regained consciousness in about 24 hours, Sorayouth said.

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