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Delhi’s Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute gets first indigenously developed Surgical Robotic System, SSI-Mantra

Rajiv Gandhi Cancer Institute and Research Center (RGCI), New Delhi gets its first-ever Made-in-India Surgical Robotic System, SSI-Mantra which is developed by med-tech start-up SS Innovations. On Thursday, robotic cardiac surgeon Dr. Sudhir P Srivastava and creator of SSI Mantra, along with Dr. Sudhir Rawal, Medical Director, RGCI announced the official launch and acquisition of the first model of the indigenous surgical robotic system.

The Gurugram-based company claims that it is cheaper, more advanced, and more efficient than the US FDA-approved Da Vinci system which was approved for use in India in 2000. In 2002, India’s first robotic cardiac surgery was conducted with the Da Vinci system, and the first urological surgery in 2006.

According to a study published in the Indian Journal of Urology in 2020, there are currently 66 centres and 71 robotic installations as of July 2019, with more than 500 trained robotic surgeons in our country.

“More than 12,800 surgeries have been performed with robotic assistance in these 12 years. The numbers are expected to increase as more robotic surgeons get trained and other surgical specialties increasingly utilise this platform,” the study stated. Although the Da Vinci system has been a norm in India since its first operation, many other alternatives have also hit the Indian markets in recent years. According to Sudhir P Srivastava, he wants to make a difference by building a cheaper alternative to Da Vinci.

According to reports, the Da Vinci system costs between Rs6 crore and Rs15 crore. SSI’s Mantra is in the Rs4 crore to Rs5 crore bracket. Meanwhile, Dr. Srivastava informed Financial Express.com that the operation and maintenance cost would be one-third of the Da Vinci system.

During the press conference, the experts informed that SSI Mantra went through its first human pilot clinical trials between December 2020 and January 2021 at RGCI in which the surgeons successfully performed 20 complex surgical procedures. Some of the procedures include Radical Nephrectomy, Hysterectomy, Radical Cystectomy among others. In April this year, SSI Mantra 2.0 system was used to perform human pilot clinical trial in which surgeons performed 8 complex procedures.

Moreover, Dr. Srivastava also informed that they are planning to get USFDA approval by the end of this year. The experts along with RGCI Medical Director Dr. Rawal informed that the robot is now ready to provide an advanced method of surgery, which will be accessible to the general public.

“Since it’s a cancer hospital, we don’t get benign cases. For starters, we will be performing surgeries for urology-related cancer. We might perform our first surgery tomorrow or next week. I have used to system multiple times now and its surgeon-friendly and much better than other robotic systems,” Dr. Rawal told Financial Express.com.

SS Innovations claims that it is the first company in South Asia to launch this machine SSI Mantra. According to the company, it is an advanced surgical robotic system that has more and better features and applications than existing Surgical Robotic Systems and is much less expensive.

Dr. Sudhir P Srivastava, Founder, Chairman & CEO, SS Innovations (FE.com)

When asked other than cost-effectiveness what makes SSI Mantra different and better than Da Vinci, Dr. Sudhir P Srivastava, Founder, Chairman & CEO, SS Innovations told Financial Express.com: “There are many features that Da Vinci doesn’t. First of all, the surgeon console. With this system, the surgeon gets to sit instead of leaning over or hunched over as it gets painful for the surgeon during long surgeries. With SSI Mantra command centre, the surgeon gets to sit ergonomically, you have a large 32-inch monitor for better magnification which helps with precision. The Da Vinci has arms and all of them are connected sometimes when you have to position them there is difficulty and sometimes they collide during surgery. In SSI Mantra you can use any number of arms and place them wherever required. The third major factor, we have 3-D vision for everybody in the room. Our system is also prepared for tele-mentoring because of high connectivity and 3-D. With these features the procedure becomes faster and safer.”

Dr. Srivastava that this complete fore-arm system has been placed in RGCI with all components and it’s operational now.

On the investment front, Dr. Srivastava told Financial Express.com: “I have personally put in over seven and a half million dollars of my life-saving and I almost went bankrupt then we raised money. By now, roughly I would say close to 300 crores has gone into this development as it’s very complex. We roped in very talented engineers.”

He also emphasised that the robotic system will be fully controlled by surgeons and it doesn’t work on its own. “It’s like an extension to the surgeon’s hand and because of its precision it actually makes even complex surgeries safer,” he added.

Dr. Srivastava also maintained that with robotic surgeries recovery rate is faster as it only takes a week whereas in laparoscopic surgeries sometimes it takes months or over a year to heal completely.

Apart from Dr. Sudhir P Srivastava and Dr. Sudhir K Rawal (Medical Director, RGCI), Dr. Somashekhar S P (Chairman & HOD Surgical Oncology, Manipal Comprehensive Cancer Care Center) and Dr. Arun Prasad (Bariatric and Robotic Surgeon, Apollo Hospitals) were also present during the event.




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