Robotic Surgery: The Next Decade of Innovation
In the past ten years, the range of surgical procedures performed robotically has grown as a result of advancements in both hardware and software. Manufacturers are also building smaller, more specialized equipment that promises to reduce integration costs and increase access. How will this technology continue to evolve and what can we expect in the next ten years?
Establishing Standards and Expanding Applications
As the volume of surgical procedures performed by robots grows, so does the amount of data collected by system engineers and manufacturers. This data can be used to refine techniques and standardize procedures in order to improve patient outcomes. Minimally Invasive Surgery (MIS) is the ideal approach for minimizing complications and recovery times. Surgical robots are best suited for these procedures due to their small tool size and precise movement. They can also easily perform repetitive tasks because the movements can be broken down into clearly defined actions.
Surgical robots first gained momentum with urology and gynecology surgeons and, after successful validation, are now expanding within thoracic, gastrointestinal and orthopedic specialties. In the early days of robotic surgery, hospitals needed a dedicated operating room (ORs) to house the equipment. Today, however, new equipment is being developed with an emphasis on portability so that units can be moved from room to room and even stored away if needed. Downsizing the equipment is key to growing the number of hospitals that are able to implement surgical robotics and increase the range of procedures performed.
Driving Autonomy with More Intelligent Surgical Robotic Systems
New surgical robots incorporate miniature cameras that provide a visual guide for the surgeon which results in better accuracy. Advanced systems can even integrate imaging from ultrasounds and MRI or CT scans which helps a surgeon view hidden surgery locations. Manufacturers and software developers are using 3D imaging to create Augmented Reality (AR) solutions that can optimize surgical procedures and training tools. In the future, surgeons will be able to rely more on the robot to operate more autonomously using image-guided navigation and data analysis.
Expanding Access to Best-in-Class Surgical Treatment
As costs come down and equipment size is reduced, more remote hospitals will be able to offer robotic-assisted surgery. They may not even need a local specialist if the robot can be controlled remotely, helping expand access to cutting-edge treatment options. A feature that will help remote robotic surgery applications is the presence of haptic feedback within the system. Using advanced tactile sensors and haptic feedback mechanisms, doctors are able to accurately judge pressure, tension and force providing better precision during complex surgeries.
Finally, in order to effectively perform remote surgeries, hospitals will need access to reliable, ultra-low latency networks that can process and send information in real time. 5G networks will allow doctors to receive input and respond quickly during telesurgery procedures resulting in improved patient outcomes.