Thai doctors complete first brain surgery in Asia aided by robots

May 15, 2017

The first robotically assisted brain surgery ever performed in Asia has been successfully completed by the doctors at the Ramathibodi Hospital in Bangkok, Thailand on a 77-year-old man with a two-centimeter-diameter brain tumor.

“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 100,000 Baht 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 40 million Baht, and Thailand and Vietnam are the only countries in Southeast Asia to have the capability.

Surgery Department chief Dr. Wachira Kochakarn said the technology minimizes 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 tumors, aneurysms and Parkinson’s disease.

He said the incision in the skull is less than three centimeters in diameter and just one centimeter in the scalp. Whereas such surgery typically allows for an area of error of 3-5 millimeters, robotic assistance reduces that to less than one millimeter. 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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