Spanish hospital deploys four-armed robot in lung transplant

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MADRID - A Spanish hospital carried out a lung transplant using a pioneering technique with a robot and a new access route that no longer requires separating the ribs and opening up the chest, experts said on Monday.

Surgeons at Vall d'Hebron hospital in Barcelona used a four-arm robot dubbed "Da Vinci" to cut a small section of the patient's skin, fat and muscle to remove the damaged lung and insert a new one through an eight-centimetre incision in the lower part of the sternum, just above the diaphragm.

The new procedure is less painful for the patient, they said, as the wound closes easily, and is safer than the traditional method which requires a 30-centimetre incision and a very delicate post-operative period.

"We believe it is a technique that will improve patients' life quality, the post-surgery period and reduce pain. We hope this technique will eventually spread to more centres," Albert Jauregui, head of the Thoracic Surgery and Lung Transplants Department at Vall d’Hebron, told reporters on Monday.

The pioneering procedure, which until now has only been used to treat lung cancer, was performed on Xavier, a 65-year-old man who required a lung transplant due to pulmonary fibrosis.

Xavier said he benefited from the new technique.

"The result is that I can talk to you and tell a bit of my story," he said.

Spain is a global leader in organ transplants, with an average of 7 donors and 15 transplants per day in 2002, according to Spanish health ministry data.

(Reporting by Emma Pinedo, editing by Inti Landauro and Christina Fincher)

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