Development of Minimally Invasive Surgery

St Mark's Hospital has been pioneering new surgical treatments for 180 years. The innovations developed aim to improve recovery for patients and reduce complications.

St Mark’s Hospital has pioneered new surgical technique since 1835 and the development of minimally invasive surgery has continued as a defining feature of the institution.

The development of minimally invasive surgery aims to improve accuracy during operations to ensure that

  • Less healthy tissue is removed
  • Recovery time is improved
  • There is reduced risk of complications post-surgery

Pioneered by Sir Alan Parks at St Mark’s in the 1970s, the ileo-anal pouch operation is a surgical treatment for aggressive ulcerative colitis. The formation of an ileo-anal pouch provides an option for patients with this condition to live without a stoma. In effect, the ileo-anal pouch has proved to be completely life changing. The operation has been performed in more than 25,000 patients worldwide!

The latest developments are; full thickness laparoendoscopic excision, FLEX and Transanal submucosal resection, TASER. The newest development is the Surgical Robotics Research Programme.


Developed by Professor Robin Kennedy, FLEX can safely and efficiently perform full-thickness bowel wall removal of a polyp. It aims to avoid shortening of the bowel, pain, inter-abdominal scarring, the need for re-admission and the avoidance of unbearable toilet frequency.

This technique was first introduced into clinical practice in 2014 and it is to be explored further over the next ten years, offered to patients with early stages of cancer. This should help these patients avoid undergoing major surgery.


Developed by Professor Brian Saunders and Mr Janindra Warusavitarne, TASER involves the removal of large polyps in the rectum without major surgery. This technique has gained both national and international interest.

Surgical Robotics Research Programme

The Surgical Robotics Research Programme was launched in April 2018. Unlike in other UK hospital trusts, the main focus of the Programme at St Mark’s is colorectal and anorectal surgery. As part of the Programme, we are developing a hub to educate and train surgeons in robotic colorectal surgery. Our educational activities have been very successful to date: between June 2019 and February 2020, we hosted more than 30 surgeons at St Mark’s for one-day robotic case observations. These surgeons travelled to St Mark’s from other UK hospitals, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. At the time of writing (February 14 2020), based on confirmed case observations, between March 2020 and May 2020 inclusive we will be hosting surgeons from France, the UK and Belgium.