Minimally invasive surgery : when robots assist surgeons

JPEGUrologic, digestive, vascular, gynecological, thoracic, heart and hand surgeries… so many surgeries that have been performed for several years, mostly, by surgical robots ! Since 1999, the year when the Da Vinci surgical robots were launched by the company, Intuitive Surgical based in California, the number of high-tech assistants is growing exponentially, with a remarkable 25% growth per year.

The surgical robot allows surgeons to perform delicate and complex interventions through small incisions, while their vision, precision, dexterity and control are improved during operations. The system consists of an ergonomic console from which four arms on the robot are controlled. To guide the movements of the robot arm, the surgeon, sitting in front of the console, sees and operates on the images of the operation in progress projected in 3D. In fact, it is the surgeon who is operating and not the robot itself.

A couple of decades ago, the advent of laparoscopy decreased the size of incisions and therefore the operative trauma. Now, thanks to these robots, the surgeon has a binocular vision in 3D, which was not possible with laparoscopy. Moreover, gestures are safer and more accurate because they are smoothed by the machine (such as hand shaking for example) and the dexterity of the robotic arms allows for gestures almost infeasible for the human hand. Thus, the surgeon can work in excellent conditions of comfort and therefore longer. When operated with the Da Vinci machines, the patient sees his hospital stay and recovery becoming shorter and shorter.

In the United States, approximately 80% of prostatectomies due to prostate cancer are performed with the help of a robot. In France the proportion is 18% and should reach 25% by late 2011. Last September, it was the turn of the Tonkin Clinic in Lyon to equip itself with one of these devices which has been used 150 times to treat patients in at least six specialties—urological, digestive, vascular, gynecological, cardiac and hand surgeries—and does the pride of the clinic director.

Last modified on 06/05/2011

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