In the United Kingdom, robots are now assisting doctors with surgery via the da Vinci robotics surgical initiative. The goal of the initiative is to introduce a state-of-the-art, minimally invasive surgery practice that utilizes robot technology to the mainstream medical world. The system involves a magnified 3D high definition vision system and small wrist mounted instruments that maneuver and bend more flexibly than the human wrist.
As a result, the system enables surgeons to operate with enhanced control, precision, vision and dexterity. Although the system is assisted by robots, the doctor is always in control. The robotic element to the system allows for automatic focusing via the vision system, control over the wrist devices and suggested maneuvers.
The U.K. government has recently published a strategy for stimulating growth in the autonomous system and robotics industries. The goal of the strategy is to improve the business prospects of the country’s robotics specialists amidst the competition from countries like Japan, Korea and the United States.
The U.K. is hoping to capitalize on the growing innovations of medical robots that has been demonstrated in recent years. The director of the Hamlyn Centre in Imperial College London, Professor Guang-Zhong Yang, specializes in the development in this kind of technology with his peers and students. Among the technologies they are working on is a catheter bot that can pass through arteries to deploy a stent (which used to repair narrow or weak arteries). The device has the capacity to learn from previous surgeries and operations to get a better understanding of the human anatomy and common problem areas.
Robots that are now assisting doctors during surgery vary in function and abilities, and are being experimented with in other places besides the U.K. Researchers from UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center led the biggest multicenter study on robotic assisted procedure which assists in the removal of cancerous stones in the kidneys.
The five year study yielded results that the utilization of robots during the surgeries (227 to be exact), is ideal considering the procedures were faster, more efficient and successful than only human operated surgeries. A very significant find in the study was the difference of variability in the amount of time the main blood supply to the kidneys were blocked off during surgery. This time is referred to as the warm ischemia time (WIT). Traditionally, amongst human only operated surgeries, WIT’s vary. During the study, while robots assisted the surgeons, the WITs were shorter and more consistent.
The study also shown there were less complications during surgery than average, with only three patients requiring blood transfusions. The British government is also hoping that their adoption of robots assisting doctors with surgery will improve human doctors along with the general efficiency of hospital care in the country. During studies, the U.K. found that there is a steep learning curve with doctors who operate with assistance of robots. The robots lower the likelihood of mistakes and allow for inexperienced doctors to learn in a calmer and more relaxed environment while maximizing observation. In the United Kingdom, robots are now assisting doctors with surgery.
By Andres Loubriel