Explainer: How Rwanda’s Next-Gen Surgery Works


On Saturday, President Paul Kagame inaugurated the IRCAD Africa in Masaka, opening the doors to the campus Rwandan and African surgeons will be trained in high-tech minimally invasive surgery.

Though it is a decades-old technique, minimally invasive surgery is still rare in Africa.

Having the high-tech research and training centre, built in partnership between the Rwandan government and IRCAD France, will not only benefit Rwanda but also Africa, President Kagame said.

The technique, which was pioneered in the 1980s, offers numerous benefits to patients, such as shorter hospital stays, reduced pain, and faster recovery time.

Today, minimally invasive surgery employs a host of advanced technology, such as artificial intelligence and robotics in treatment. It is touted as a game-changer in African healthcare if it is integrated in the mainstream medical system.

While traditional surgery would require long, and painful operation, followed by long periods of recovery, modern minimally invasive surgery uses small tools that allow surgeons to safely perform these same procedures through small openings.

These minimally invasive surgeries result in less bleeding, reduced risk of infection and other complications, shorter hospital stays (or even going home the same day), faster recoveries and less scarring.

When performing minimally invasive surgery, the surgeon makes three to five small incisions and then inserts narrow tubes called trocars. A lighted, miniature camera is then placed through one of the trocars.

The images from the camera are displayed on large video monitors that give the surgeon a clear, magnified view. The surgeon then places specialized instruments through the other trocars to perform the procedure.

Minimally invasive surgical techniques include robot-assisted surgery and laparoscopic surgery for procedures in the abdomen and in the chest, single incision surgeries in which the instruments and camera go through a single incision at the belly button, and incisionless endoscopic procedures using a flexible scope placed through the mouth and into the stomach, intestines or airway.

Why having IRCAD in Rwanda matters

Globally, about 2.5 billion or more than a third of the global population do not have access to safe surgery.

The majority of patients today are operated in the traditional, aggressive open surgery, says Prof Jacques Marescaux, the founder of IRCAD, who wants to reverse the trend in Africa with the centre in Kigali.

The global cancer institute IRCAD, whose centre in Rwanda is the first of its kind on the African continent, boasts of cutting-edge simulation technology, including virtual reality and augmented reality platforms, which allow surgeons to practice in a safe and controlled environment.

Professionals being trained at the IRCAD centre benefit from the expertise of a team of 800 medical scientists and researchers.

IRCAD Africa plans to train 500-1000 surgeons every year in minimally invasive surgery, and its first cohort began courses on October 2.

The centre will provide skills and knowledge of the next generation of surgeons across various specialties including in general surgery, urology, gynaecology, ear, nose and throat (ENT) surgery, neurosurgery, anaesthesiology, and orthopaedics.

Several African countries are in contact with the Rwandan government and IRCAD Africa to send their professionals for training at the centre.

Source : New Times