January 28, 2009
Robotic Surgical Assistants As Safe As Humans

While the human surgeon does most of the work a robotic assistant can already replace a human assistant in gallbladder removal.

Using a robotic assistant to remove a patient's gallbladder by key-hole surgery (laparoscopic cholecystectomy) is as safe as working with a human assistant, a Cochrane Review has concluded. Comparisons between robot- and human-assisted surgery showed that there were no differences in terms of morbidity, the need to switch to open surgery, total operating time, or length of stay in hospital.

Between 10 and 15% of the adult western population develop gallstones, placing a huge demand on health services. In the USA alone, more than 500,000 people have their gall bladder removed each year. The preferred way of doing this is now to use keyhole surgery that involves a surgeon and an assistant. In key-hole surgery, the surgeon sees inside the patient via a long camera introduced through a 1 cm abdominal cut. The camera guides the surgeon in using the surgical instruments introduced through other small cuts (ranging from 0.5 to 1 cm). The assistant's job is to move the camera, which acts as the surgeon's eyes.

You just know where this is heading: Some day human surgeons will become viewed as too risky and inefficient and expensive. For reasons of cost and safety complete surgeries will be performed by automated equipment. Look at Lasik and other similar techniques for treating eye problems. The operator of the equipment is not doing anywhere near as much as the equipment does.

Robots will be able to operate more quickly and cheaply. This will be important when we want to check into a hospital to have most of our aged abdominal organs replaced by youthful organs fresh out of organ growth vats. I hope we get a lot of benefit from our robotic servants before they revolt and wipe us out.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 January 28 09:59 PM  Robots Medicine

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