Robot surgery

Why does that doctor plays video games all day? Oh wait, he is actually performing a robot surgery!

OK, I'm trying to joke as you already have guessed. In reality, robotic surgery is nothing like video games. Quite the opposite - this is where two very complicated fields come together and everything becomes very serious business. As you can understand, doing surgeries is far more complicated than welding and the stakes are very high. Nothing can be valued higher than human lives.

There are numerous directions where robot surgery is being developed. This division is not strict and usually in existing surgery robots these directions of development can overlap. Still, it is easier to explain magnetism and electricity separately. The same goes for robot surgery, so read on.

Minimally invasive approach

You have to put your hands into someone to do something with his internal organs, right? To put your hands in you have to make large cuts that heal slowly. This is changing rapidly nowadays. Today, different types of surgery are done using a minimally invasive approach. This means performing a surgery using a few small incisions.

The possibilities of using this approach by human doctors are rather limited. As you can understand, the longer the tools the more they amplify natural hand tremors. There are other problems too involved with this approach. This is where robotic surgery comes in.

The use of robotic surgery can solve many issues connected with a human factor thus easing a surgeon's work. Below you can see a picture of the da Vinci robot surgery system. As you can see, it consists of a surgeon console and a manipulator.

©2009 Intuitive Surgical, Inc


Telerobotics in robot surgery focus on surgical system use over a large distance. Although the da Vinci system is developed in minimally invasive direction, theoretically, such a system could be enhanced in order to enable surgeries over great distances.

For example, the surgeon console could be located somewhere in New York city while the manipulator - let's say, in London. The possibilities provided by this approach are mind blowing. That's why the military has a strong interest in telerobotics. The idea of enabling surgeons to operate in front lines without placing themselves in peril is very tempting.

Of course, this would be very advantageous in civil medicine as well. In an ideal case, surgeons from all over the world could treat patients also from all over the world.

AI robotic surgery

Both aforementioned directions basically extend the possibilities of a surgeon by giving him a better tool - a robotic manipulator. The AI robotic surgery, on the other hand, is a field dedicated to enable robots to do surgeries more or less autonomously. At the present day it is too early to talk about robots that could do surgeries on their own. However, there are supervisory controlled robotic systems. For example, ROBODOC made by CUREXO Technology corporation that's used for orthopedic surgeries.

As far as I'm aware, ROBODOC is on this day the closest thing to an AI controlled robotic surgery we have. In this case a surgeon has to do extensive pre-operation planning using a Preoperative Planning Workstation - ORTHODOC. In ORTHODOC's environment, the surgeon maps out a bone to be milled, this has to be done individually for every patient. After that the manipulator - ROBODOC can carry out the surgery as planned previously in ORTHODOC.

Although robotic surgery is a relatively new field, tremendous development has been made in recent years. The da Vinci system using minimally invasive approach and a pre-programmable ROBODOC are both pioneers in this field. Although the positive effect of robots on surgery outcome is unquestionable, the economical benefits are uncertain. Nowadays, robotic surgery systems tend to be quite expensive. However, do you remember how much your first computer cost to you? I think you got the point.

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