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Robots Could Be Better at Performing Surgeries Than Human Surgeons

May 05, 2016 01:29 PM EDT
Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR) outperformed both the experienced surgeon and robot-assisted surgery (RAS).
(Photo : Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Robot-assisted surgery (RAS) is becoming common in healthcare settings, but its effectiveness and safety greatly depends on the manual capability of human surgeons,

Due to this, surgeons and scientist from Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation at Children's National Health System developed a robot that only requires minimal supervision and removes surgeon's hand enhancing efficacy, safety and improving access to optimized surgical techniques.

To test out their new technology, dubbed as Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR), scientists and surgeons performed two different surgeries on inanimate porcine tissue (ex vivo): linear suturing and an end-to-end intestinal anastomosis,

"We chose the complex task of anastomosis as proof of concept because this soft tissue surgery is performed over one million times in the U.S. annually," said Dr. Peter C. Kim, Vice President and Associate Surgeon-in-Chief, Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, in a statement.

They then compared the results of surgery performed with STAR to the same surgical procedure conducted manually by an experienced surgeon, by laparoscopy, and by RAS with the daVinci Surgical System using the metrics of anastomosis including the consistency of suturing based on average suture spacing, the pressure at which the anastomosis leaked, the number of mistakes that required removing the needle from the tissue, completion time and lumen reduction, which measures any constriction in the size of the tubular opening.

According to their findings, published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, STAR outperformed both the experienced surgeon and RAS. However, experienced surgeon performed the surgery faster, only taking about eight minutes compared to the 35 minutes of STAR.

"Our results demonstrate the potential for autonomous robots to improve the efficacy, consistency, functional outcome and accessibility of surgical techniques," added Dr. Kim.

Dr. Kim clarifies that their demonstration of the abilities of STAR were not meant to replace human surgeons, "but to expand human capacity and capability through enhanced vision, dexterity and complementary machine intelligence for improved surgical outcomes."

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