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Robot carries out partial liver transplant in Italy

A medical transplant center in Sicily says it is the first to use only the arms of a robot to remove a donor organ.

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Robotic arms remotely controlled by a doctor demonstrate robotic surgery at Montefiore Institute for Minimally Invasive Surgery in New York City in May 2002. A similar robot was used to complete a partial liver transplant in Italy in March 2012. (Spencer Platt/AFP/Getty Images)

The ISMETT medical transplant center on the Italian island of Sicily has become the first to use only a robot to remove an organ from a donor.

According to the center, only the arms of the robot, which was remotely controlled by a surgeon, entered the abdomen of the donor, AFP reports.

"This is the first case in the world performed entirely and exclusively with the robotic technique," the center is quoted as saying. It acknowledged that some living donor liver transplants had been performed in the US using a robot in the past, but argues that they were aided by a surgeon who inserted his hand through an incision to perform the surgery with the robot.

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Medical News explains that the surgery was carried out using the Da Vinci SHDI robotic surgical system, a "multi-tentacled device" designed by the Robotic Surgery Center in Pisa.  The system has three arms to hold tools and a fourth fitted with an endoscopic camera, all of which are remotely controlled by a surgeon from a console. The company's website says that the robot provides a minimally invasive alternative to complex surgical procedures like open surgery and laparoscopy.

The procedure at ISMETT took 10 hours and was carried out on a 44-year-old donor to save his 46-year-old brother who was suffering from cirrhosis of the liver, AAP says.  It was completed in March, but the center had withheld the news until the organ recipient was given the all-clear and discharged from hospital.

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