Faster than a scalpel-wielding hand, able to snake to hard-to-reach surgical sites in a single bound—future surgeons will be super surgeons, all thanks to robotics.
Alistair Fleming, VP Medical at Sagentia
In many industries, the advance of robotics has created worries about robots supplanting humans. But in the world of surgery, the next generation of robotics is set to do the opposite—to supercharge the surgeon and put him in control as never before.
First generation systemsIntuitive Surgical’s da Vinci system defined the first generation of general surgical robotics. It promised a revolution in surgery and is today used for hundreds of thousands of procedures annually. The da Vinci System “is powered by robotic technology that allows the surgeon’s hand movements to be translated into smaller, precise movements of tiny instruments inside the patient’s body,” according to the company. The surgeon is provided with a high-definition, 3D window on the operative world through a laparoscope also operated by one of the robot’s arms. Characteristics of first-generation robotic surgery systems include the large size and physical dominance of the operating room, the placing of the surgeon into a console outside the sterile field, and surgeons receiving feedback limited mostly to visual cues on-screen.
The invisible man
The effect of this “fly-by-wire” surgery has in part been to abstract the surgeon from his traditional role at the heart of the operating room. Once in the middle of the team, he is now pushed to the margins of the room, almost invisible at his console, controlling the operation remotely (indeed the system was originally designed with a completely physically remote battlefield use in mind). New breeds of robotic surgical systems aim to change this, and they will have fundamentally different characteristics from the first generation.