Surgical Robots – the new heroes in medicine?
by Violetta and Noemi
What do you think of when you hear the word surgery? You probably imagine one or two doctors and a few nurses standing around a person in anesthesia, doing surgery. But since 2000, many surgeries do not look like that anymore. That is the time when robotic surgery became more and more common.
Now, you are probably wondering: What exactly are these medical robots used for and how do they work?
They are used in the medical science and are supposed to support the surgeon. This blog is about a specific type of medical robotics, the surgical robots. Robots like these can perform many surgeries, including Kidney transplants, Hip replacement and many more. They were invented in 1990 and the first robotic surgery found place in Germany in 1998.
The da Vinci Surgical System was one of the first inventions in this area.
This is how it works:
A very small 3D camera and dime-sized surgical instruments are placed inside the patient through tiny incisions. Throughout the surgery, the surgeon sits at a special console. The camera gives a 360-degree view of the operative field. The da Vinci System translates he surgeon ́s hand movements in real time, so the robotic system can put it into action by using its precise instruments.
A new robot-assisted surgical device is the eye-sensing technology, which tracks the surgeon ́s pupils. It is astonishing and a little bit scary to imagine a surgeon performing a surgery only by using his eyes. Zooming in or out is also possible by moving toward or away from the console screen. Due to these new technologies, surgeries have become easier for the physician and the patient.
The use of robotics in medicine seems to be a great achievement for the medical industry. But is this new technology as progressive and effective as we once envisioned?
Most of the respondents of our survey would prefer to have a surgery which contains robotic technology. The main reason for that decision was that they consider robot-assisted surgery to be less risky that an open surgery. Nevertheless, a quarter of the surveyed were of the opinion that the use of robotics in medicine would open up new risks.
“Robot-assisted surgeries – the future is here.”
it said in the news after the first da Vinci robots were on the market. It is quite evident that this technology has an enormous potential since robotics makes it possible for physicians to work more precise and delicate.
There is a huge amount of marketing, which promises the patients to have less blood loss, a faster recovery, smaller scars and of course less risks. The company Intuitive Surgical presents the surgical robot as a big step to a better health system.
“Surgical robots are rather an expensive and ineffective technology than a revolution in medicine.”
Unfortunately, this technology costs the health system hundreds of millions of dollars. For the patients, it costs ten times as much as a traditional open surgery. Furthermore, there are many clinical costs since the physicians need to be trained in using the new tools etc. Therefore, there are many criticisms about the technology not making such a big difference in spite of the high price point. Moreover, there is criticism that the company is exploiting its monopoly position because some of the tools have a limited usage number.
“It is a fancier way of doing what we have always been able to do.” (Dr. John Sarta, medical director)
Years of studies show that the promises of the great marketing were not completely fulfilled. Notably, there are illnesses, where an open surgery would be more effective and comfortable than the use of robot-assistants. Besides, there are plenty of injuries and even death cases caused by the surgical robots. This shows that the use of robotics in medicine opens up new risks, since there is the danger that the system crashes during the surgery or the robots are programmed incorrectly.
Nevertheless, there are many cases, where the use of medical robots is necessary since it has many advantages in contrast to other less pricy possibilities. It makes complicate surgeries easier for the surgeon and results in greater success.
Illnesses are able to impact on a person`s life in probably the worst way one can think of since they can inflict pain and limit someone in many ways. It is a very optimistic and utopian way of thinking that in the future, medicine would be advanced enough to prohibit any kinds of diseases.
There might be criticism which say that this a stupid utopian vision which leads to nothing since it can be very annoying and even risky to develop new technologies, it always takes a time until a new invention is as perfect as everyone wants it to be. Nevertheless, it is not appropriate to let medicine stay on the old traditional level since medical advances are desired by humanity.
We are of the opinion that it cannot be wrong to have the high aim to improve the medical possibilities for the sake to make the would healthier in the future.
As long as surgical robotics is evolving, there might be difficulties people need to face, like for example the high price point.
However, surgical robotics already is improving our health system and has cured many illnesses more efficiently than it would be done in the past.
To sum it up, robotic-assisted surgeries might not be perfect yet, but this technology is upgradable and has a great perspective in improving the health system of humanity.