Hey, Your Hands are Cold! - Robots in Modern Medicine.
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Aug 9, 2012

Hey, Your Hands are Cold! - Robots in Modern Medicine.

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Since the first robotically assisted surgery was successfully conducted little more than a decade ago, there have been amazing developments in the field of medical robotics. What was once seen as sci-fi fantasy has today become the norm in cutting-edge healthcare. As technological advancements continue to increase the versatility of these instruments, surgical robots are in ever-higher demand, and have recently proliferated amongst top medical centers throughout the world.

Robots are enabling doctors to perform procedures that were never before possible. A surgeon with a scalpel, no matter how talented, has limits of dexterity, endurance, and anatomy that preclude his or her ability to perform certain life-saving procedures. But today’s robots have no such limits. Not only can they operate in regions that were formerly inaccessible to doctors, but they can also do so through minimally invasive means, enabling faster recovery times, higher rates of success and minimized risks.

Though we are still a very long way from the possibility of robots that operate on patients without human intervention, today’s robotic technology offers surgeons an incredibly powerful tool that can improve nearly every aspect of delicate operations. Robotically assisted surgery has been especially effective for conducting urological, cardiothoracic, pediatric, and gynecological procedures that require enormous degrees of precision and minute manipulation. Certain types of heart surgery, for example, traditionally require an enormous incision along the breastplate and the splitting of the ribcage. However, with robotic assistance, the same procedures can be accomplished with only a few small incisions that allow endoscopic cameras and narrow cutting implements to be fed into the chest. Obviously, this type of surgical improvement drastically reduces the chance of serious complications as well as the negative impact on the patient.

The current pinnacle of robotic surgery, and the apparatus most commonly used by medical institutions today, is the Da Vinci Robotic Surgical System. It features four high precision robotic arms, which can be manipulated by two surgeons simultaneously. The Da Vinci also provides the surgeon with a 3D high definition video feed in full color; translates the doctor’s manipulations into fluid, refined, and scaled-down movements of the robotic arms; incorporates EndoWrist controls that exceed the range of motion of the human hand; uses a high resolution endoscopic camera; and even corrects for tremors.

These robots are rapidly revolutionizing the way surgeries are preformed in the medical world. They reduce physical trauma to patients, shorten hospital stays, eliminate large quantities of in-surgery blood loss, and make once-invasive procedures relatively painless and benign. These machines essentially make the surgeons who use them exponentially more efficient and effective, and they move the physical reality of surgery one step closer to its conceptual ideal.

As technology continues to develop, this shift will only become more and more pronounced. The next step for robotic surgery, experts claim, will be remote operations, where doctors can perform procedures by manipulating these robots from across continents. These are certainly exciting times!

Author Bio: CRUK is a UK based charity offering help, information and support for those dealing with breast cancer.