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Having now seen surgery in two hospitals across four specialties I finally had a chance to try some surgery myself! Yes - I am not a surgeon or even a medical student for that matter, and before you ask no, I did not kidnap anyone and no, it was not in a real operating theatre. I should also add that it was all legal. So how?
I was lucky enough to attend a session on surgical skills at University College London Hospital led by Mr Manish Chand and organised by Professor Laurence Lovat. Initially we were taught one of the most basic, yet essential, of surgical skills - suturing.
This is a skill that has been used throughout medical history and even pre-dates Hippocrates. The earliest reports of surgical suture dates back to 3000 BC in ancient Egypt and was used in part of the burial preparation of their mummies. Over time there have been many advances in the materials used to suture and a transition from plant fibres to animal based suturing occurred. Indeed the first recorded use of catgut suturing was attributed to Galen of Pergamon in the Second century AD. Sutures are still made from catgut, this is the primary material that is used to make absorbable sutures, except that synthetic catgut is more commonly used today.
After that we were taught some fundamentals of laproscopic surgery involving placement of ports and camera manoeuvring, in addition to some simple tasks. This form of surgery may be just over a quarter of a century old, as a result it has seen rapid growth and leaps in the development of new procedures and new uses for these tools. This came with many new benefits compared to the classic open surgery such as: less scarring, less postoperative pain and a shorter hospital stay for the patient.
But what of the future?
Robotic surgery. I was privileged to have been able operate on a Da Vinci surgical system and one of the current generation virtual reality trainers. This new system is amazing without exaggeration. The precision, innovation and detail that was put into crafting the system is worthy of the highest praise and I can easily see it as the way surgery will be done in the future.
We have the power to potentially reinvent surgical procedures in a way that can change medical history. As an avid “Touch Surgery” user I can see this potential for innovation clearly. Anyone can go and understand the way that an open appendectomy is performed and compare it to a laproscopic appendectomy. The innovation that changed such a simple operation is remarkable.
I learnt many things in that session. Perhaps most importantly the fact that modern surgery is about to turn a corner and some open procedures are soon going to become a part of history. To quote one of my favourite politicians, “the best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” Every day is a day of innovation in medicine and we are the future of medicine.
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