Hospital Dr News

Outdated equipment affecting keyhole surgery

Only 15% of laparoscopic operating theatres meet the highest levels of equipment safety and design, according to a UK-wide audit.

While 49%  of theatres meet sufficient equipment standards, the Association of Laparoscopic Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland (ALSGBI) found that 85% of hospitals do not yet have ‘fully integrated’ theatres which could make surgery more efficient and safer for patients.

Furthermore, the audit suggests that more than one in five hospitals do not have high-definition imaging screens readily available. Despite HD being the norm for domestic televisions, some hospitals are still using obsolete imaging screens for complex operations. The surgical view on the screen is less clear and the colour resolution is impaired, making the surgeon’s job more difficult, the audit suggests.

The use of laparoscopic surgery is increasing, according to ALSGBI. It is used for many gastrointestinal and abdominal operations, bringing patients the benefits of smaller scars, less pain, reduced blood loss and faster recovery.

For example over 90% of all gall bladder removals and over 30% of bowel cancer operations in the UK are now undertaken laparoscopically.

Professor Timothy Rockall, President of the ALSGBI, said: “It is worrying that surgeons are still having to use equipment which may limit the operations they can perform safely. You can’t buy a non-HD television on the high street even if you wanted to and yet in our hospitals we see old and poor quality television screens being used for complex operations.

“We hope the result of this audit encourages surgeons and management to discuss upgrading their equipment to improve standards and to reassure patients that the best service is being provided.”

Laparoscopic technology is advancing rapidly. However, there is a fear that theatres are lagging behind by not being equipped with the technology to enable more efficient operating standards. With the NHS under pressure to save £20bn by 2015, the ALSGBI is concerned that necessary investment in pioneering surgical techniques and technology is in danger of being overlooked.

The audit surveyed 206 hospitals across the UK and graded respondents bronze, silver or gold.

It found that 49% of hospitals scored gold, 33% silver and 13% bronze. 17% of hospitals did not have a programme in place for the upgrade, replacement or maintenance of laparoscopic equipment. And 9% were not using modern energy sources for their equipment, such as ultrasound dissection.

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