Page last updated at 19:57 GMT, Wednesday, 22 October 2008 20:57 UK

'Robo doctor' to begin operations

Da Vinci machine
Surgeons have been practising with the machine ahead of the first operation

A Berkshire hospital is preparing to be one of the first in the UK to carry out operations with a "robotic surgeon".

The Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading has taken delivery of the 1.2m da Vinci machine which will carry out its first procedure next month.

The device, which has been leased to the hospital through donations, can be used by a doctor sitting at a computer screen.

A campaign to raise enough money to buy the device outright is being planned.

The robot interprets the users' movements from the controls and carries out the action on the patient.

It can even counteract any trembling in the surgeon's hands.

'The future'

The machine will be used initially for gynaecology, urology and ear, nose and throat surgery.

It may then be rolled out to perform other procedures.

Peter Malone, consultant urologist at the hospital, said: "What the robot allows us to do is the same manipulation we would do with open surgery but translates that into action at the tip of the needles so we can do the same operation through smaller incisions."

Mark West, from da Vinci Surgery Systems, said: "We think this is the future.

"Robotic surgery is relatively new in the UK but certainly has the opportunity to become a familiar experience for patients, surgeons and hospitals alike."

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