The existence of robots is no surprise to us. From the assembly lines of mass production to space exploration projects, robots are used everywhere to perform tasks requiring the utmost precision. Similarly, they are programmed to conduct delicate surgeries too.
Owing to its accuracy, robotic surgery causes minimally invasive incisions, reduces labor, and improves surgical dexterity while performing complicated surgeries. It also significantly reduces the risk of post-surgical issues like infection, blood loss, or scarring, making it one of the most commonly used surgical methods. Presently, 7.2 million robotic surgeries have been conducted in 67 countries worldwide.
The initial introduction of robotic surgery goes back to the 1970s when NASA explored the concept of telesurgery or remote surgery. The idea is aimed at making a machine that could be placed on a space station with surgical instruments and remotely controlled by a surgeon on Earth. Subsequently, the idea was taken into consideration by DARPA researchers to build remote telesurgical units that could aid the injured during wars.
Non-Laparoscopic Robots: The Beginning of Robotic Surgery
The concept of robotic surgery was theorized as early as 1967. Since then, this technology has only seen massive development and specific inclusion in various surgical procedures.
The first surgical robot, the Puma 560, was built in 1985 for performing neurosurgical biopsies. It was the first-ever non-laparoscopic surgical robot used in a stereotaxic operation to insert a needle into the brain with the use of computer tomography. It was mainly adopted to improve the precise surgical procedure, which was previously subject to human error.
Subsequently, another surgical robot was created at the Imperial College, London to perform transurethral prostate surgery. It came to be known as the “PROBOT” and was designed to direct a rotating blade essential to completing the procedure of prosthetic resection.
Next came the ROBODOC, which marked the end of non-laparoscopic surgical robots. It was developed by two American companies, namely Integrated Surgical Systems Inc. and IBM, in 1992. This robot was used for human hip replacement surgery by effectively creating a cavity in the pelvis, and it was instantly approved in the European healthcare system.
Laparoscopic Surgical Robots: The Present of Robotic Surgery
The success of using robotics in non-laparoscopic surgeries sparked speculation about its potential in more complex laparoscopic surgeries. Right after the ROBODOC, the 1990s saw the start of laparoscopic robotic surgeries.
Laparoscopy refers to examining the abdominal and chest cavities with the help of an optical instrument similar to a small telescope. The insertion of the laparoscope (the optical device) inside the human body was essential during various surgeries but was a time-consuming and difficult procedure for surgeons. With the invention of robots that could perform laparoscopy, operations became brief.
In the 1990s, surgeons and scientists tried to develop surgical robots that could execute minimally invasive procedures in surgeries. Three systems were prepared and tested by the end of the decade ⏤ the Da Vinci Surgical System, the AESOP, and the Zeus Robotic Surgical systems.
The Zeus system carried out robotic surgeries on the most delicate human body parts, such as the female reproductive organs and the heart. This system was incorporated into 28 different surgical instruments by 2000 and was approved by the FDA in 2001. Soon after, Computer Motion ⏤ the company that produced the Zeus surgical robots merged with Intuitive Surgical, and the Zeus system was discontinued in 2003.
The company that purchased and stopped production of the Zeus system was also the maker of the Da Vinci Surgical System, making it the only robotic surgical system in the world in the early 2000s. As a result, it dominated the field of robotic surgery for a decade, and its popularity skyrocketed. Da Vinci platform was cleared by the FDA and became available for general laparoscopic surgery in the US in 2000. Since then, many advancements have been made to it.
Although the Da Vinci remains the most extensively used robotic surgical platform, numerous new businesses have sprung up in recent years with fresh innovations for robotic surgery, sparking competition in this ever-changing sector.
Role of Coding and Programming in Robotic Surgery
Surgical robots can be programmed in different ways to quicken the process of surgery. The arms of the robots are embedded with tactile force sensors that enable the surgeon to change procedures during a remote surgery through haptic feedback. This programming allows the arms to monitor and control the grip force applied during the operation and provide feedback to the surgeon.
Due to such coded programming, surgeons can completely experience tactile sensations while performing a surgery, even from afar. This helps in increasing the precision of the operation. Furthermore, with this technology, robots can also be programmed to conduct more specialized surgical tasks and connect with surgeons stationed remotely.
Robotic surgery is one of the best surgical innovations of our time, and this advancement has helped surgeons as well as patients since its invention. And, with the most recent technology yet to be discovered, surgeons and medical experts predict that robotic surgery will make unrivaled contributions in the future.
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