It’s no secret that robots are currently being used to help perform a huge variety of medical procedures, including surgeries. Up to this point, though, those robots have always been functioning as tools guided by trained physicians, who have fully directed those procedures.
Now, medicine is moving more completely into the Age of Robotics. Example A: A robot at Washington, D.C.’s Children’s National Health System laboratories has just completed the first soft-tissue surgery where human doctors assisted a robot surgeon.
It’s an astounding achievement – real science fiction stuff – and it just happened recently. A team of computer scientists and physicians developed the intensely complex machine called STAR, which stands for Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot.
The robot was tested out recently on living pigs; sections of intestine were removed, with the robot then mending the two sections of tissue together like a bio-seamstress.
The robot’s results were analyzed and found to be superior to what a human surgeon could do. The sutures were stronger and spaced perfectly apart, with the resulting tissue having a better chance of avoiding post-op complications.
Peter Kim is a chemist with the STAR team and he indicated the team’s surprise at the test’s findings. “The outcomes were surprising to us,” Kim said. “That consistency throughout the performance was better than (human) surgeons.”
In comparison (when performing the same procedure), human surgeons were found to be three times faster than the STAR, but its makers pointed out that the robot can actually work much, much faster. For the observational purposes of this first test, the robot’s performing speed was reduced drastically!
The Precision of a Diamond-Cutter
The STAR uses a hydraulic arm to carry out its ultra-precise surgical functions, like doing the intricate sewing work of suturing skin.
Even more impressive is the way the STAR uses the night-vision aspects of its lone camera eye to scan different types of soft tissue and identify them properly through its system of infrared lighting and 3D tracking algorithm.
As the technology becomes approved for use on human patients, you can expect to see robotic surgeons handling a variety of surgeries. Performing tendon repairs and removing tumors are just two of the surgical procedures being planned.
The STAR experiment was a complete success, with the patients making a full and quick recovery from their test surgery!
Tech to the Rescue!
Robotic surgeons are just one of the many ways today’s most advanced technologies are being put to lifesaving use:
• 3D Printing Currently being used by orthopedic surgeons to gain a keener understanding of how bones break, by making 3D-printed models of bones (and bone fractures).
• Virtual Reality VR is being used for a variety of medical uses, such as helping autistic kids develop and enhance their social skills. Test results from the University of Texas, Dallas indicate that VR can help these kids feel better about themselves and more confident in their social interactions.
• Wearable Tech A researcher at the University of Tokyo has developed a bionic “e-skin” that a doctor can wear over her own hand. The e-skin has extreme powers of sensitivity and can let a doctor detect a tumor within a patient…simply by touching the patient’s skin!
Technology + Medicine
There’s never been a time when technology was able to save more lives and improve more people’s health than now.
Medicine and technology are becoming even more tightly interwoven than before, and tomorrow’s physicians may know as much about tech as they do about healing.