Innovations in robotics are making surgery safer and more precise

You may have seen movies where a patient is placed in an automated surgical device and is completely healed by a robot. This may seem hundreds of years away, but what many do not realize is that some types of surgical robots are already in common use. So, how do these robots work, and what types of surgery are they used for?

How it works

Robot-assisted surgery is used to allow doctors to perform complex surgeries with greater precision, flexibility and control. Robots are used most frequently to perform keyhole surgery – procedures that are performed through tiny incisions. The instruments on the robot are miniaturized so they can fit through the incision.

The most common types of surgical robots have a camera arm and one or more mechanical arms, with miniaturized surgical instruments attached to them. The camera is a magnified high-definition camera that provides a 3D image of the inside of the body. The surgeon sits at a computer console positioned next to the operating table.

The surgeon controls the arms while seated at a computer console near the operating table. The console allows the surgeon to operate all of the arms of the robot at once, while the screen gives her a stereoscopic view of the inside of the patient. As the surgeon moves the controls, the movements are replicated exactly by the robot. 

With the most common types of surgical robots, the surgeon can also change the scale of the robot’s movement. For example, by selecting a three-to-one scale, the surgeon can make the tip of the robot’s arm move one inch for every three inches the surgeon’s hand moves. 

Advantages

Using robots to help perform surgery has several benefits. In addition to giving the surgeon an enhanced visual field and greater dexterity, their use allows smaller incisions to be made, which reduces the risks to the patient. The robots help surgeons to both visualize and reach those hard-to-reach places inside the body – making them especially useful for delicate and complex urological, gynaecological, and cardiothoracic procedures. 

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