The robotic surgery market is expected to surpass $7 billion by 2025. Today, robot-assisted surgery can improve or correct a growing number of conditions, helping to decrease the risk of infection and offer greater precision and accuracy.
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Robot-Assisted Surgery: Early Beginnings to Modern Times
A fictional concept from a Czech play paved the way for the development of advanced robotic surgical systems that help thousands of surgeons perform complex procedures.
First Steps in Robot-Assisted Surgery
In 1920, Czech author and playwright Karel Capek’s play Rossum’s Universal Robots uses the term “robot” for the first time. Fast forward to 1985, and Kwoh et al. use the PUMA 560 robotic system to perform neurosurgical biopsies with great accuracy. The 1990s saw a flurry of robot-assisted surgery concepts come to life, such as the PROBOT, the ROBODOC system and the AESOP (later called ZEUS) operating system. The latter system was rivaled by the da Vinci system in 2000, and da Vinci ultimately emerged as the most widely used system because of its unique capabilities.
As of today, more than 6 million surgeries have been performed globally using the da Vinci surgical system, and there are more than 39,000 surgeons are qualified to perform surgery with da Vinci. There are also 4,986 da Vinci systems in hospitals worldwide, spread over 66 countries on six continents.
The da Vinci system features three main components. The first component is the surgeon console, which provides surgeons a 3D view of the patient’s anatomy and controls the instruments surgeons use to conduct procedures. The second component is the patient cart, which is positioned near the operating table and contains the instruments used during the operation. The third component is the vision cart, which facilitates communication between the various components of the system and provides 3D high-definition vision.
Benefits and Applications
Advancements in robotic surgical systems are helping to reduce the risk of complication and increase the number of procedures that may be performed using robotic systems.
Advantages of Robot-Assisted Surgery
There are numerous advantages patients can experience using robot-assisted surgery. These include fewer complications, quicker recovery, and shorter hospital stays. For surgeons, the benefits of robot-assisted surgery include enhanced precision and control, better vision, and greater ease when performing complex procedures.
The da Vinci system may be used to perform a variety of procedures across many medical specialties. These include a wide range of general or abdominal surgeries, including surgeries on the gallbladder, stomach, pancreas, and spleen, as well as hernia repair.
The da Vinci system can also be useful for numerous specialties. Some of these specialties include cardiology, coloproctology, pulmonology, urology, gynecology, and otolaryngology.
There are other robot-assisted surgical systems advancing the concept. For example, TransEnterix has created the Senhance Surgical Robotic System, a multi-port robotic system that provides 3D HD vision, haptic feedback, and surgeon camera control via eye movements. In 2017, the FDA approved the robotic system for use in colorectal and gynecological surgery as well as for cholecystectomy and ventral hernia repair. Its machine vision system for robotic surgery, which offers features like eye tracking operator commands, and the ability to learn preferences to anticipate a surgeon’s needs, received FDA approval in 2020.
Additionally, Human Xtensions has developed handheld digital solutions for minimally invasive surgery. The HandX system can translate a surgeon’s natural hand motions into complex movements inside the patient. The system itself is considered an affordable alternative to the da Vinci system.
Another system is the Flex Robot System from Medrobotics. This system offers applications across otolaryngology and can be used in general surgical, gynecological, and thoracic procedures.
The Future of Robot-Assisted Surgery
Companies developing robot-assisted platforms continue to search for ways to advanced robotic surgical systems to offer even greater benefits to patients and surgeons.
Technologies Advancing Robot-Assisted Surgery
Certain technologies or tech-driven strategies are being used to advanced surgical systems. Some of these include enhanced imaging, intelligent systems, less invasive approaches, data analytics, and training and optimized learning.
Increasing focus on the use of medical robotics for precision surgery may help reduce costs and improve a patient’s quality of life after surgery. However, there are still some challenges ahead to fully implementing robotic systems. These include the legal and ethical barriers related to high levels of autonomy in medical robots, particularly as the autonomy level increases.
The Potential of 5G in Robotics
The adoption of 5G networks will enable nearly instantaneous communication. This is partially due to low latency, but it also is due to other key factors such as the ability for surgeons to conduct remote procedures, improved quality, reduction of costs, and an increase in health care availability.
Pushing Further Forward
Future advancements in robotic surgical platforms will require the collaboration of professionals across a variety of fields, including health care, engineering, and technology. Working together, innovators in these industries will help shape the future of robot-assisted surgery and ensure life-changing results.