(CMR) Trinidad and Tobago became the first Caribbean country to perform a robotic surgery when several organizations collaborated to carry out three surgeries on the twin islands last month. An elite group of surgeons performed a series of three meticulously coordinated surgeries with the assistance of a British surgical robot, taking a major leap in surgical technology in the country and region.
This surgery was done this September after months of planning, with the support of Imperial Medical Solutions, Freehand, Digital Resilience UK, The Department for International Trade, The University of the West Indies, and AA Laquis.
Trinidad and Tobago was the first in the world to perform remote training in robotic surgery, made possible through British expertise.
The innovative surgical robot called FreeHand CoBot (Collaborative Robot) has been designed and manufactured by Surrey, UK-based Freehand. As the name suggests, it offers a “free hand’, as the camera used for laparoscopic surgeries is now brought under the direct control of the surgeon, providing a 360º, tremor-free image and complete control of their surgical environment.
This improved image has the added advantage of enabling faster learning of laparoscopic surgery skills by surgeons, making it a powerful teaching tool, and enhancing the overall adoption of laparoscopic surgery, with all the associated healthcare benefits.
This technology is new to the Caribbean, with the goal of improving healthcare for citizens in the region, but it has already been used in more than 15,000 surgeries in 30 countries, including the UK, Europe, the US, and Australia.
Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica were chosen to pioneer this innovative technology in the Caribbean through the Faculty of Medical Sciences at The University West Indies’ (UWI), St. Augustine (Trinidad), and Mona (Jamaica) Campuses to assess whether robotic-assisted surgery was viable in emerging economies. Their proven success will be a benchmark and playbook for other such territories worldwide.
Also, given the limitations of travel in the COVID-19 context, a bespoke and innovative surgical training methodology was needed to bridge the gap between the Freehand CoBot trainers in the UK and the surgeons in the Caribbean. This approach was crafted by Digital Resilience UK, who acted as technical and design partners for the training method and online platform that facilitated the first remote training in robotic surgery in the world, making it another landmark global achievement for Trinidad and Tobago.
While the introduction of robotic technology itself is revolutionary in Trinidad and Tobago, this virtual training methodology created a paradigm shift in the way surgeons are trained and mentored, particularly in emerging economies. This success was also enabled due to the extensive experience of the AA Laquis Clinical and Biomedical Sciences team in logistics and training.
Dr. Ramdas Senasi, Chairman of IMS and a UWI Alumnus, underscored the point. He said:
“This achievement truly shows what can be accomplished through the power of friendship, hard work, and collaboration between our two nations, always putting patient safety as our utmost priority.”
Jonathan Knott, HM Trade Commissioner for Latin America and the Caribbean, said: “As we push the limits of technology and bring its benefits into our everyday life, it’s impossible to over-emphasize the importance of collaboration in achieving success. I’m delighted that this UK-Trinidadian success story makes that real and shows the strength of working together internationally. Trinidadian expertise and British technology combining to improve lives.”
The UWI team in Jamaica will now continue on to Phase 2 of the project to expand into more complex cases and continue the optimization of the technology, as stated by their counterparts in Trinidad & Tobago.