This is it! It's finally happening! The robots are taking over! Even in the operating room! Pack your bags, we're all out of jobs!
Well, not quite.
A new medical device promises to make things easier and more efficient for certain adult surgeries, but it still requires surgeons and all the usual operating room staff. (Plus, look at all these cool new jobs designing and building robots!) FDA recently announced their clearance of Senhance, a robot-assisted surgical device for certain adult surgeries. It's important to note that this is not an actual robot, as a human is still needed to operate it. A robot medical device is also pretty cool, you have to admit.
Meant to be used in colorectal and gynecological surgeries, and building on the foundations of laparoscopic surgery, this new system is pretty impressive. It enables a surgeon to sit comfortably in an ergonomic position, using the tools to conduct the surgery via the high-def, 3D interface. It also tracks the physician's eyes and responds to their movements via force feedback. As in, lean forward to zoom in on the screen to get a closer look, and lean back to zoom out—and when the surgeon goes to place a stitch or make a movement, the machine responds with force feedback that mimics the real feel of handling the needle in the tissue. If you have an iPhone 7, you'll be familiar with force feedback, as the home 'button' isn't actually a button—but the screen mimics the feel of pressing a button under your finger. This is also known as haptic feedback, and Apple cleverly calls this their "taptic" technology.
So why is using a medical device like Senhance better than regular old surgery? The precision of machines allows for a much smaller opening. As we know from laparoscopic medicine, minimally invasive surgeries generally have better patient outcomes. Additionally, it allows the physician greater comfort and ease when working in a small or difficult space. As FDA puts it,"“Minimally invasive surgery helps reduce pain, scarring and recovery time after surgery,” said Binita Ashar, M.D., director of the Division of Surgical Devices in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. “RASD technology is a specialized innovation in minimally invasive surgery designed to enhance the surgeon’s access and visualization within confined operative sites.”"
So, everyone wins. It's not difficult to imagine how, as technology such as this continues to develop, we will see more and more devices that make things easier on care providers and safer and better outcomes the patient. It's exciting to see the robots take over!