25 years of innovation and excellence in minimally invasive surgery

In the early 1990s, the world of surgery entered a novel era marked by the success of the first minimally invasive procedures and the beginning of the digital world.

In 1994, aware of future healthcare and economic issues, Professor Jacques Marescaux created the IRCAD, an institute dedicated to Research Against Cancer of the Digestive Tract, which is truly unique in the world. It was created in partnership with Industry giants in the field of medicine and surgery. The IRCAD gathers researchers, engineers, computer scientists, robotics engineers, and international surgical experts.

The reference worldwide

Fully dedicated to research and to the teaching of the most innovative surgical techniques, the IRCAD has established itself as a world reference in the field of minimal access surgery. It has become an emblematic ambassador of French excellence worldwide. Building on its international success, IRCAD Strasbourg created three “mirror” institutes: one in Taiwan (in 2008) and two in Brazil (one in the State of Sao Paulo in 2011 and one in Rio de Janeiro in 2017). These three institutes have become world leading centers in Asia and Latin America respectively.
An IRCAD Lebanon (Beyrouth) will be inaugurated in 2019 and an IRCAD Africa (Kigali, Rwanda) in 2020.

As a world leader in surgical education, the IRCAD welcomes 6,200 surgeons from the world over every year. Physicians are trained by a network of 642 world-renowned experts. Due to the necessity to globalize surgical training on an international scale, the IRCAD created WeBSurg, a virtual university dedicated to minimal access surgery. The website has become the world’s number one in the field of online education in minimally invasive surgery. WeBSurg is available in 7 languages and is totally chargefree. Today, it gathers 380,000 active members.

Virtual reality

Virtual reality represents one of the strongest assets of the Institute. It translates real-life data into a digital format, hence transforming the patient’s medical images into a 3D virtual clone of the patient. The surgeon can prepare surgery using the patient’s virtual clone and simulate it in an ever-increasing realistic manner. The intraoperative superimposition of virtual data onto real data (augmented reality) offers a transparent view, which should soon authorize the automation of complex surgical maneuvers (JAMA 2007;287:1938-1939). Such an automation goes through the use of surgical robotics, which is another IRCAD field of excellence.

Surgical innovations

The IRCAD has a long-standing history of world surgical premieres, which testify to its innovative role in the field of surgery:

  • First transatlantic surgical intervention between New York and Strasbourg (Nature 2001);
  • First surgical intervention assisted with augmented reality (JAMA 2004);
  • First no-scar natural orifice transluminal endoscopic surgery (JAMA SURG 2007);
  • First scarless surgical procedure for rectal cancer (JAMA SURG 2012);
  • First preoperative detection of an anatomical anomaly integrating 3D virtual reality (New England J Med 2012).

A pioneering spirit

Since its creation, the IRCAD has participated in major national initiatives aiming to develop French competitiveness. The IRCAD was subsequently the driving force of the Alsace BioValley Competitiveness Pole/Therapeutic Innovations, which was labeled in 2005.

The IRCAD also created Strasbourg’s IHU, an image-guided surgery institute, and a sheer embodiment of the program dedicated to “Future Investments”.

In 2010, the IRCAD has launched a broad-based project to rehabilitate Strasbourg’s Royal National Stud Farm and create a romantic hotel, a brasserie restaurant supervised by famous Michelin starred chef Marc Haeberlin, and a biocluster dedicated to technology transfer in the field of medicine and surgery. The IRCAD seeks to increase its attractiveness to surgical trainees and international experts with its own accommodation and catering structure within walking distance of the initial IRCAD training center.

French excellence

In 25 years, the IRCAD has succeeded in taking up a double challenge, namely to offer surgeons a top level expertise worldwide and to affirm its role as an ambassador of French excellence overseas.

Photo credit: Ph. Eranian, IRCAD

IRCAD at a glance