Robotic surgery, how it will be: automated and non-invasive

Robotic surgery, how it will be: automated and non-invasive

Robotic surgery, how it will be

Data collection to improve performance, on the one hand, and the attempt to make operations less and less invasive on the other. It is in these directions that research in the field of robotic surgery is moving. This is indicated by Arianna Menciassi, pro-rector and professor of industrial bioengineering and biomedical robotics at the Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna in Pisa, one of the protagonists of the 2023 edition of Health, the event dedicated to innovation in health .

Subscribe to Health - Free admission upon registration “A robot is a digital interface and as such it accumulates data: using sensors it can define a procedure that allows for the automation of certain movements” , he explains. For example? "Those related to the suture, which is a tedious and lengthy procedure". And that above all comes at the end of the operation, when it is normal for human colleagues to feel tired.

The second path of research is instead more linked to technological aspects. The goal is to "enter the human body with as few incisions as possible, making the most of the natural orifices" . A sort of endoscopy enhanced by the fact that surgical robots are equipped to perform more complex operations: "We are trying to make the small instruments that move inside the lumens of the body as manoeuvrable and high-performing as possible" .

Still with a view to technology, “robots capable of using scalpels of energy beams, for example probes that generate precisely localized ultrasounds, which allow to intervene without any incision” are being developed. Oncology and neurology are the medical disciplines that will benefit from these new tools.

But in a context of population aging and consequent increase in healthcare costs, can we afford these machines? “There are many studies in this regard - explains Menciassi -. Some say that surgical robots do not guarantee any savings, while others are convinced they do, but it depends on the organizational aspects” . In other words, it is a question of creating “centralized poles dedicated to robotic surgery, which allow the machine to be used every day and several times a day and by resorting to specialized personnel, without having to do multiple trainings to surgeons who operate in various locations. In this way, the cost is amortized" .

Mainly used for elective operations, i.e. operations not linked to urgency, robotic surgery finds its main areas of application "in prostatectomies and hysterectomies, but we also work with thoracic and abdominal surgeons". The advantage for the patient, concludes Menciassi, “is the precision that the robot is able to achieve. Consider, for example, prostate surgery, during which it is necessary to preserve the nervous structures". Having said that the decisions, and the responsibility, are always in the hands of the human operator, from this point of view the machine wins.

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