Thursday, May 8, 2008

Are robots the new-age surgeons

Many urologists performing prostate surgery view the precise, tremor-free movements of a robot as the best way to spare nerves crucial to bladder control and sexual potency. A robot's ability to deftly handle small tools may lead to a less invasive procedure and faster recovery for a patient. Robots also can protect surgeons from physical stress and exposure to X-rays that may force them into premature retirement. Dr. Frederic Moll saw potential in robotic surgery and was struck by the size of the incision and injury created just to get inside the body, it felt antiquated. His parents were both pediatricians, and he sailed through medical school. But during his surgical residency at the Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle in the early 1980s, he found the ailments of patients less compelling than the shortcomings of the tools that surgeons used to treat them. So he obtained a leave of absence to study whether the long, slender cutting tools he had seen gynecologists use in sterilization surgery on women could be adapted to gall bladder removal. They saved the spot for 10 years, but he never came back said Dr. John Ryan Jr., then head of the surgical training at Virginia Mason. A project that Satava's group financed to build a remotely controlled medical robot for the battlefield caught Moll's eye in 1994.
Moll saw scant commercial potential for long-distance surgery, but he became convinced that the technology, being developed by SRI International, a nonprofit contract research firm in Palo Alto, California, could be adapted to make routine surgery much less invasive in the hands of civilian surgeons. Gradually he made efforts to get into remote surgery and in 1995 founded Intuitive Surgical. The future is promising for such technology in remote places on earth where specialized surgeons are not willing to travel or just plain too busy.

No comments: