If you think it’s hard to get an appointment with your family doctor now, then think about how long you would wait for an appointment with a surgical robot? Well, that future isn’t as far, as you might imagine.
Even though the high cost of surgical robotics is a barrier to entry, and is causing slow adoption, a lot of hospitals are deciding that the investment is worth it. And are moving towards having surgical robotics on their teams.
In fact, Markets and Markets say that the market for surgical robots will grow 10.4% every year from 2018 to 2025, from $3.9 billion to $6.5 billion. That’s no small change.
Surgical healthcare is an important topic of discussion in every hospital. This is because they allow intricate feats of surgical care to be performed which wouldn’t be possible for a human hand to perform.
Also, mistakes by clinicians cause 200,000 deaths every year.
Read on to see why surgical healthcare is surging in demand and how that’s a good thing for everyone.
Click, Click, Click and the Surgery Is Done
Animesh Garg, a computer scientist from the University of Toronto in Canada, has been working with surgical automation for more than 10 years.
He says that all a surgeon would have to do in the future is click, click, click on the parts of the bodies that need a suture to happen. And a surgical robot would do his/her bidding.
If you are thinking that this sounds far-fetched and too science fiction to be believed, think again.
There are already dozens of surgical robots that are doing minute surgical tasks every single day. They are almost ubiquitous, so you don’t think of them as ‘real’ surgical robotics.
The most widely used surgical healthcare technology includes a camera arm and a mechanical arm with surgical instruments attached to it. The surgeon sits at a computer console and controls the arm using the controls.
This magnified view of the surgical site, using the camera, gives the surgeon a 3-D and high definition picture, which is easier to manipulate and work with.
It’s also easier to avoid making critical mistakes, with such a perfect eagle-eye view of the surgical site.
Minimally Invasive Surgery Made Easier
The most crucial benefit of using surgical robotics is its ability to do minimally invasive surgery. Delicate, complex procedures that would have been difficult or impossible to do otherwise are possible now with surgical robots.
But why do minimally invasive surgeries matter?
Well, back in the day when surgery first began, it was still quite crude, and big, unnecessary incisions were made on the human body, without much forethought about its necessity.
Nowadays, using surgical arms and robots, the incisions are smaller and the surgery is less invasive. This results in fewer complications and infections.
It also results in less pain and blood loss, less noticeable scarring, easier and faster healing and recovery times.
This is especially important for you are conducting surgery in the vulnerable and highly developed parts of the body, like the brain, or the heart, where one little mistake could be the difference between life and death.
Also, if you are going to be working with a part of the body that faces the world, like the face, or the hands, then reducing scarring, and improving recovery times is always a great addon.
Simpler, Boring, and Repetitive Tasks Can Be Taken Over by Surgical Robots
Having surgical robotics at hand doesn’t mean that every surgical task can now be handed over to surgical robots, who will perform the task independently.
A surgeon needs to always be on hand, conducting and overseeing the surgery.
Also, not all tasks are suitable for robotics in healthcare. Particular tasks are suitable for surgical robotics, more so than others.
These are the tasks that surgeons consider boring and repetitive, like valve repair, and suturing.
The easier it is to break down the task into simple, basic, and specific commands, the easier it is for a surgical robot to learn and execute.
Thus, you need have no fear that you would step into a hospital and be greeted by robotic receptionists, doctors, nurses, and surgeons alone. A hospital devoid of humans is still not a possibility.
Many surgical tasks are taxing even for an experienced surgeon, and thus, these tasks would take a while before they would be transferred over to the talents of a surgical robot.
Robots and Pigs – Sounds Like a Match Made in Heaven for Surgical Robotics
The fascinating thing about developing surgical robotics is that they actually practice on animals first. Perhaps like human surgeons in training.
The robot operates on the heart valve of a pig because pigs have similar anatomy to humans in a lot of ways. The valve repair task, even though repetitive to an experienced surgeon, is a monumental task for a surgical robot to learn.
To complete a valve repair, the surgical robot would have to make the precise journey from the base of the heart to the defective valve. This is while the person’s heart was still beating.
This means that the whole system would constantly be in motion, while the surgical robot does its thing. To pinpoint the precise location, the robot keeps on tapping on the wall of the heart, to ensure that it’s in the right position.
In animal trials, the surgical robot was able to successfully navigate its way from the entry point to the defective valve 95% of the time. Still not perfect, but getting there.
The day when the self-guided robot takes over from the human surgeon completely is still far away in the future.
Surgical Robotics Is Still an Evolving Field
Despite the fears people have of AI taking over the planet, surgical robotics is definitely a mainstay of the surgical field. It’s here to stay and it’s going to evolve rapidly as time goes on.
It will be fascinating to see where it is in ten years or so.
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