Robot Surgeons in the Making

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Modern day operating rooms are becoming quite crowded. Alongside the patient there are usually two or three surgeons, an anesthesiologist as well as several nurses. And that is for even the most simple of operations.

Though still in its infancy, robotic surgery is empowering surgeons to reduce the number of medical staff needed in the operating theater. As this technology develops, even complex procedures such as heart or brain surgery may only require one surgeon.

How it works
A surgeon manipulates a robotic system by means of a computer console placed a few feet from the patient. He can thus operate a series of mechanical arms and surgical instruments.

Minimally Invasive Surgery

In July 2000 the FDA approved the da Vinci Surgical System, developed by Intuitive Surgical. The da Vinci system is used for several different types of surgery. One of the most popular is gallbladder surgery. During this operation, the da Vinci makes three tiny cuts in the patient’s abdomen. Three robot arms hold three devices in place. One holds the surgical camera; the other two manipulate surgical instruments.

There are several advantages to robotic surgery. One important one is that it permits the surgeon to perform a much less invasive procedure. The robotic arm has seven degrees of freedom, whereas a human wrist has only four. This means that the robot is able to make a wider range of independent movements.

Robotic surgery could reduce health care costs by allowing an operation with fewer medical staff, it could allow surgeons to operate remotely also cutting costs. In the future it could permit surgeons to operate on patients in remote places or countries where experts are not available. If mechanical arms were able to operate in real time a surgeon in New York could operate on a patient in Africa, for example. Robotic surgery also decreases the risk of fatigue that surgeons experience when conducting an operation that lasts for several hours and reduces the risk of infection being passed between the doctor and the patient.