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The rise of robots in surgery
This robot would position a patient's limb during orthopedic surgery on voice command by the human surgeon – enabling the surgeon to focus on performing the procedure and saving an assistant from having to hold the limb during the operation (something which can be very tiring).
In 2001, the use of robots in surgery went one step further. The Lindbergh operation was the first transatlantic surgical operation. This telesurgical operation was carried out by a team of French surgeons located in New York, USA on a patient in Strasbourg, France. It involved working with the Zeus surgical system – a robot comprised of three arms which responded to the surgeons’ movements all the way across the Atlantic.
In May 2006, a robot surgeon performed the world's first unassisted operation, which corrected a heart arrhythmia on a 34 year old male. The robot learnt the procedure through data from approximately 10,000 real-world operations.
From these early advances, the use of robots is now commonplace. In 2012, 1,595 prostatectomy operations were carried out in the UK using robots – 29 per cent of the total performed. A recent study found that robotic prostatectomy operations are just as successful as operations carried out by humans, if not more so. Those in the study who were operated on by a robot lost less blood during the surgery, had to spend less time in hospital, and experienced less pain doing day-to-day activities a week later.
Now there are more and more milestones in the use of robots in surgery. 2016 saw the world’s first robotic operation inside the eye to restore a patient’s sight, made possible by the robot’s ability to make tiny movements without the tremors of a human hand.
Embracing the power and precision robots bring, and combining this with natural human instinct, opens up a world of opportunities, with the potential for a huge improvement in surgical outcomes.