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Who is at the Forefront of Robotic Surgery - Surgical Bot or The Surgeon?

September 27, 2019 | Healthcare

Technology has achieved a whole new level. Can you imagine a surgical robot in the shape of a snake? MIT researchers have designed a robot snake that can diagnose and treat aneurysms and brain clots by performing minimally-invasive procedures. Researchers say that this robot will work as per commands received by surgeons.


Surgical robots have the capability of performing complex surgeries, especially anatomical areas where a human surgeon cannot reach. However, the decision-making is still left in the hands of surgeons as it is their expertise and experience which can save the life of patients.    


The accelerating demand for automaton in the healthcare industry is boosting the surgical robot industry. Surgical robots are increasingly adopted in North America. This is mainly attributable to the rising awareness about robotic surgery and presence of a well-established healthcare infrastructure in the region. With the emergence of advanced technology, these robots are witnessing demand from various countries in Asia Pacific. In addition to this, research and development on surgical robots is likely to boost their uptake across the world in the near future.


Moreover, surgeons also prefer robotic surgery as it helps to eliminate human errors and perform surgeries with precision. Recently, surgeons at the Tianjin First Central Hospital performed three orthopedic surgeries from remote locations.


Surgeons were sitting in different hospital and robots were executing the programming commands received from surgeons. The surgery took place with the help of wireless technology, helping surgeons to monitor progress and communicate accordingly. The risk of surgery can be controlled when robots perform some of the tasks.


Recent Developments Bolstering the Adoption of Surgical Robots Around the World:


Recent Developments in Japan:


The high price of surgical robots is one of the biggest hindrances faced by healthcare organizations. As the demand for surgical robots is increasing, several companies are planning to develop affordable surgical robots. For instance, a Japanese startup called Riverfield has launched a low-priced surgical robot by competing against  Intuitive Surgical Inc.The company has received US$ 10.1 million funds from Toray Engineering to increase its capital and developed a user-friendly surgical robot. Once approved by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, the company intends to launch the product by 2020. With quality and diverse functions of the product, advent of affordability is the icing on cake. If surgeons and patients realize this sooner, the acceptance towards robotic surgery may proliferate in the forthcoming years. 


Recent Developments in India:


Medical tourism has always been one of the main point-of attraction in India. Owing to the less cost of medical care, patients from other developed countries such as the US believe that India is the best place for undergoing treatment. In comparison to the hospitals in the US or UK, people consider India for medical treatment owing to less waiting time. Hence, several institutions are putting efforts to develop surgical robots in India for the treatment of chronic diseases.


In August 2019, researchers at IIT Madras designed first spine-surgery robot, which is more affordable and less painful for patients. The system is integrated with an image-guided robotic system and can perform minimally-invasive surgeries, resulting in speedy recovery and better patient outcomes.


Ministry of HRD funded the project and the system was developed under a Yojana called Uchhatar Avishkar Yojana. The system is designed in a way that it can reduce the surgeon’s exposure towards radiations, keeping in mind the patient’s safety.


So far, India has been successful in performing robot-assisted laparoscopic surgeries, but this is the first time India has developed a surgical robot for spine surgery. Institutes such as AIIMS, Fortis, Apollo and others are at the forefront of robotic revolution. Surgeons in India say that robotic surgery has become one of the most sophisticated tools today.


However, training on robotic surgery can be a major roadblock for surgeons in India. This can be overcome by conducting training modules and simulation programs with the integration of artificial intelligence and machine learning.


Developments Surgical Bots  Witnessed in Australia


Adoption of AI and machine learning is proliferating the healthcare industry all across Australia. Surgeons believe that AI helps them to take fast decisions while performing robotic surgeries. Intuitive Surgical’s da Vici first entered into Australia and till now, over 33,000 surgical have been performed with da Vinci systems.


Also, the Australian Medical Robotics Academy plans to train surgeons on medical robots with the help of virtual reality (VR) surgical simulation. The center received around AU$2 million from the Victorian government and plans to train surgeons in Australia and abroad for cancer treatment. This way surgeons can upgrade their skills and alter the process on how patients receive care.


Are robots going to replace surgeons? As of now, robots assist surgeons but some studies have found that very soon robots might perform any surgery with minimal human intervention. Currently, robotic surgery is gaining attention across the world owing to their numerous benefits. The high cost, which was the only concern before is likely to fade away as several companies are developing cost-effective robots while keeping in mind their high precision and accuracy.

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