Despite costing $1.5 million per unit, the Da Vinci robotic system is turning heads in hospitals across America. The addition of robotic systems in operating rooms promises more precise surgeries, less damage to the surrounding tissues, smaller incisions, less blood loss, less risk of surgeon fatigue and quicker recovery times. While intelligent robots are far from executing their own surgeries, using autonomous robots and robotic arms as assistants is revolutionizing medical science.
The Da Vinci Surgical System is a groundbreaking innovation that's garnered much attention by media and surgeons alike over the past decade. Ideally, these new robots will be used in delicate surgeries like heart valve/artery surgery, brain surgery and cancer removal. Telesurgical robotic systems consist of two components; one is a computerized tele-micromanipulator, the other a surgical unit containing three robotic arms.
At the start of the surgery, four keyhole-sized incisions are made as entry-points. Down one incision will be the endoscopic camera, which is attached to a fiber-optic cable. The remaining ports will carry tiny surgical tools, which rotate and maneuver using flexible robot wrists. The surgeon sits at a console, watching the 3-D images from the camera and making the necessary motions to perform the surgery, which the robotic system then mimics with much more precision and accuracy.
Supervisory-Controlled robotic systems work autonomously once they're programmed with set instructions by a trained surgeon. Surgeons then watch over the autonomous robots to make sure there are no surprises. RoboDoc, developed by Integrated Surgical Systems, is one of these Supervisory-Controlled systems, and it has been used in countless knee surgeries and hip replacement surgeries. Since 400,000 people require knee surgeries each year, this type of procedure can benefit a large number of patients by being far less painful and allowing for quicker recovery times.
Of course, there is always some room for error with robotic systems that require surgeon assistance. Since no two bodies are exactly alike, the surgeon must first map out the body to ensure the robot's course is accurate. Additionally, it is up to the surgeon to decide which surgical approach is best. The surgeon must also match the points mapped on the computer with the points on the body, position the robot at the proper starting position and then oversee the process from start to finish. While it's undoubtedly a complex procedure, its widespread use could have a revolutionary impact on the medical field.
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