As technology continues to become more advanced and evolved, it allows the health industry to take significant strides. When it comes to surgery, robots were first introduced in the 2000s in certain surgical fields. There’s now more of a future for using robots in the operating room. I spent a year during residency studying applications of surgical robots to pediatric surgery and have authored numerous papers and a book chapter on the topic.
How Robotic Surgeries are Performed
Two different components are required for robotic surgeries: the console the surgeon uses to control the robot and the actual robot. The console provides stereopsis (3-D visualization). The robot docks at the patient and has several arms that can be swapped to hold tools optimized for tasks such as dissecting, sewing, and cutting.
Robots have been adopted in many fields including urology, gynecology, and general surgery. Surgical robots make it easier for the surgeon to operate with telescopes and small incisions. This type of surgery is called laparoscopic surgery and the surgical robots have made advanced laparoscopic surgery available to more surgeons. That being said, I am not aware of any data that shows an advantage to using surgical robots when compared head-to-head with non-robotic surgery. The theoretical advantages of include motion scaling and tremor filtration. I studied these benefits at an extreme scale by using surgical robots for microsurgery.
Many parts of the world suffer for a lack of surgeons. Perhaps remotely available surgeons could alleviate this shortage? Many medical professionals are anticipating long-distance operations being performed or assisted by surgeons not physically present in the operating room. A long-distance operation has been performed in the past between France and New York but was challenging because of a time lag. With advances in compression and advanced fiber optic links, these delays may be a thing of the past.
Although robotic surgery is promising, there are still a few drawbacks to the technology. Haptic feedback (being able to feel) is limited or non-existent. Most surgeons aren’t trained to use the robots, which means that only certain professionals can operate them. And these systems are very expensive to purchase and operate.