Barcelona: First robot sex change surgery in Europe

The first gender reassignment (sex change surgery) operation in Europe carried out by a robot was completed in Barcelona on Tuesday using a technique developed in the United States that reduces operating time and risk of complication.
The Bellvitge University Hospital in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat (Barcelona) carried out the surgery using a surgical robot to conduct a vaginoplasty with a peritoneal flap on a 30-year-old patient.
A vaginoplasty is the most frequently used feminising surgery wherein the male organs are inverted to create tissue for the neovagina canal. The use of a robot takes the operation a step further by making use of the peritoneal flap (a part of the tissue that lines the abdominal cavity) to ensure depth and facilitate the creation of the channel of the new vagina.
The new type of intervention has significant advantages for the patient lowering the risk of vaginal prolapse (fall) and possible injury to the rectum during surgery, as well as the reduction in the duration of the intervention.
In the future, it is hoped that this type of procedure will also make it possible to shorten hospital stays and improve the functional results of patients.
Robot controls and arms allows instruments to be moved with greater precision, providing the surgeon with better quality vision and the ability reach the most difficult-to-reach areas of the pelvic cavity. The use of robots also provides greater comfort for the patient and a quicker recovery time as it is less invasive.
The intervention was carried out jointly by urologists and plastic surgeons from the Transgender Surgery Functional Unit who spent two months at the NYU Langone Hospital in New York with the experts and world leaders in this type of technique.
“The four years of experience in this technique in the United States have shown that it is a very safe and advantageous procedure for patients”, stressed the doctor of the Bellvitge Urology Service Begoña Etcheverry, one of the specialists who made the stay at NYU Langone Hospital.
“A multidisciplinary team and expert in robotic surgery such as the one at the Bellvitge University Hospital is ideal for starting a first program of this type of surgery,” he added.
Two operating rooms at the Bellvitge University Hospital are equipped with the Da Vinci robotic system. The first was installed in 2009, subsequently renovated in 2016 and the second in 2019. The hospital now carries out 500 robotic surgeries per year.
Gender reassignment surgery, the hospital stressed, “offers trans people the possibility of genital reassignment so that they can reaffirm their felt identity.”
This is one of the possibilities of the treatment process for the emotional discomfort or suffering suffered by manytrans people because their gender identity differs from the sex assigned at birth or because of physical characteristics related to sex.
Launched in October 2019, the Functional Transgender Surgery Unit of the Bellvitge University Hospital is designated bu the Catalan Health Service as one of the three reference centres in Catalonia for surgical care for people trans.
It is a multidisciplinary unit with recognised experience in the field of complex genital surgery, where specialists from the Urology, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and Gynaecology services, among others, participate.
Since its launch, it has performed a total of 39 transgender surgeries with this the first full robot enabled sex change surgery in Europe.

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Written by

Peter McLaren-Kennedy

Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]