Medical robotics is the future of science. Although one Da Vinci surgical robot costs roughly $ 1.7 million, surgeons who have used it say it is both remarkable and revolutionary. “I do a lot of gallbladder surgery,” explains Dr. Glen Gibson of Annapolis General Hospital. “Operating on livers, stomachs and colons used to be stem-to-stern incisions; I have had to take out one (only) gallbladder by traditional surgery in the last three years.” Robotic surgery promises quicker recovery times, less pain medication and fewer incisions, he adds.
Currently, there are three types of robotic surgery systems: Supervisory-Controlled systems, Telesurgical systems and Shared-Control systems. Supervisory-Controlled systems (aka Computer Assisted Surgery) are the most automated of the three. The surgeon undertakes to consider prep work, inputs data into the robotic system, plans the course of action, takes x-rays, tests the robot’s motors, places the robot in the appropriate start position and oversees the robotic action to ensure everything goes as planned. The most famous prototype is the RoboDoc system developed by Integrated Surgical Systems, which is commonly used in orthopaedic surgeries.
The Telesurgical robotic system is the second type of device used in modern robotic surgery. The most common variety, the Da Vinci Robotic Surgical System, enhances the surgery by providing 3-D visualization deep within hard-to-reach places like the heart, as well as enhancing wrist dexterity and control of tiny instruments. This technology allows surgeons to make quicker, more controlled and more accurate movements by using the robot arm with its wider range of motions.
It also allows more surgeons to perform these procedures, since many of the techniques performed by robot assistants are highly skilled and extremely difficult for humans to master. Now more procedures (like artery repair and valve repair) can be done without long recovery times or bodily injury.
The Shared-Control System is the final category of robotic surgery devices. In this system, the human does the bulk of the work, but the robot assists when needed. In many cases, the robotic system monitors the surgeon, providing stability and support during the procedure. Before getting started, the surgeons program the robots to recognize safe, close, boundary and forbidden territories within the human body. Safe regions are the main focus of the surgery.
Close regions border easily damaged soft tissue and the boundary is where soft tissue begins. As the surgeon nears these dangerous areas, the robot pushes back against the surgeon, or in some cases, when the hidden zone is reached, the robotic system actually locks up to prevent any further injury. Shared-Control systems may work best for brain surgeries, where the surgeon provides the action but the robot arm steels the hand.