A new £500,000 state-of-theart operating theatre which cuts recovery time by half for patients with bowel cancer has opened at St Mark's Hospital.
TV presenter and bowel cancer survivor Lynn Faulds Wood unveiled a plaque on Monday to mark the opening with her husband, TV broadcaster John Stapleton, and spoke of her experience of the disease.
Consulant surgeon Robin Kennedy then gave a presentation including a live demonstration of keyhole surgery transmitted from the new theatre.
Ms Faulds Wood was diagnosed with cancer 17 years ago, and left with a 12-inch scar down her torso after an operation. The new surgery means complex procedures such as removing bowel can be done making only small incisions.
Ms Faulds Wood said: "I was presenting Watchdog when I was diagnosed with bowel cancer. I now have train tracks down my front. I also have a bad back, because my stomach muscles were cut.
"This new procedure is wonderful for patients and will leave them without the horrible scars I have. It will also mean people can leave hospital quicker, get back to their normal lives, and will free up beds in the wards."
St Mark's, in Watford Road, Harrow, is one of only a few hospitals to use laparoscopic, or 'keyhole' surgery, for advanced, complex procedures.
During the surgery cameras are inserted into the body so the surgeon can see what he or she is doing on a monitor. Only a small cut has to be made, which improves recovery for patients with reduced risk of infection and shorter hospital stays.
Equipment in the theatre is suspended from the ceiling by mechanical arms so that lighting and camera angles can be controlled by computers at the simple touch of a button.
Robin Kennedy, consultant surgeon at St Mark's and pioneer of the ground-breaking surgery, has helped hundreds of patients with colorectal disease.
He said: "This theatre is purpose-built for the keyhole surgery we now use to remove the bowel. Combined with our enhanced recovery programme we can reduce the time in hospital after major bowel surgery. In the past people used to have to stay 10 or more days and take at least two to four months to recover fully. Now they stay four days and look fully recovered after two to four weeks."
Around 250 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer in Harrow every year. The theatre, which is managed by North West London Hospitals NHS Trust, will be a national and international referral centre and will treat 1,000 patients a year.