Robotic surgery, the amazing technology that allows surgeons to operate on patients with greater efficiency and precision via a surgeon-controlled robotic device, is poised to change the nature of surgery forever.
Here’s what the future of robotic surgery might bring:
Doctors are anticipating the growth of tele-medicine and long-distance operations, where a doctor could conceivably operate on a patient in another city, state, or even a different continent. Practically, this would mean that surgical centres would be set up in different parts of the world and a doctor could go to a surgical centre and sit in a control console while a patient in a different surgical centre would be operated on by a robot controlled by that doctor.
Already a long-distance operation was performed via robotic surgery between New York and Strasbourg, France, in 2001. The surgery, which was dubbed “Operation Lindbergh” for its pioneering qualities, was performed successfully, but there was a delayed lag time that made this long-distance surgery impractical. However, as the internet becomes faster and bandwidth becomes cheaper, this will undoubtedly change.
Dr. Michael Palese, a urological surgeon and the Director of Minimally Invasive Urology at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, specialises in robotic, laparoscopic and endoscopic surgery and performs over 800 surgical procedures each year–many of which he uses the robot for.
“In the future there will be tele-medicine, where you can operate on someone somewhere else in the world,” Palese said. “I don’t think that’s far-fetched science fiction anymore. I think that I’ll see that in my lifetime.”
Palese added that the growth of tele-medicine will also mean a higher level of competition between doctors who are vying for surgical bids. This could mean that doctors in places like India and China could be competing with doctors in America and Europe. This would raise the bar and push surgeons to be the very best in the field.
Single-Incision “Snake Hole” Ports
The other possibility that we could see in the future is the single-incision port, where a doctor could make a tiny incision–perhaps through a patient’s bellybutton–and then insert the snake-like arms of the robot through that incision. Currently, the robot makes a few small incisions, through which its slender robotic arms are inserted.
“The next generation of this technology will mean that you put one little hole in the patient and then put snake-like arms through that hole,” Palese said. “That will be a real technology buster. That would change the nature of surgery forever.”
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