CMR Surgical and LifeHealthcare are teaming up to bring the Versius robotic keyhole surgery system to Australia and New Zealand.

The partnership is expected to boost Australia’s surgical robotics market, which is already experiencing average annual growth of 20%.

The Versius system was awarded the European CE mark in March 2019, and will launch in Europe later this year, with the launch in Australia and New Zealand set to follow soon after. It has recently completed its first round of initial surgical procedures in humans.

LifeHealthcare CEO Matt Muscio said: “We are proud to have a healthcare sector that globally leads the way in the adoption of new technology. There is strong surgical robotics expertise in Australia and significant potential to help more patients experience the benefits of minimal access surgery. With CMR’s technology and our knowledge of the market, we believe the introduction of Versius will be a real step change to the adoption of surgical robotics in Australia.”

The Versius system is designed to make minimal access surgery (MAS) more straightforward for surgeons to perform. Traditional keyhole surgery techniques can take years of training to perfect, and some surgeons who lack the required dexterity may never qualify. Keyhole procedures can also go on for up to three or four hours, which can cause physical strain for a surgeon as they lean over a patient with surgical tools.

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Versius is designed to change this by giving the surgeon the ability to either sit or stand depending on their needs, using individual cart-mounted arms to operate on the patient. The system projects a 3D image of what’s going on inside the patient on to its HD vision console instead of a 2D video stream, with the surgeon carrying out procedures using a handset which resembles a games controller – these factors allow for much more intuitive operating than directly handheld tools.

The overall learning curve for mastering Versius is a matter of weeks rather than years. CMR Surgical hopes its technology can expand the use of MAS worldwide by opening the door for more surgeons to complete keyhole procedures.

CMR Surgical CEO Martin Frost commented: “Australia is a globally recognised centre for surgical innovation and a mature market for surgical robotics – making it a great fit for introducing Versius. By bringing a flexible, cost-effective robotic system to Australia we aim to expand the rates of minimal access surgery.”

Approximately 10,000 patients undergo robotic surgery every year in Australia. These are commonly urological procedures, but forecasts predict strong expansion across gynaecology and general surgery if existing barriers to robotics are addressed.