Global science, product and technology development company Sagentia claims that robotic surgery is going to continue to play an influential role in three niche areas including minimally-invasive surgery, specialist functional applications and patient management.
The company predicts that continuum and snake robots will be beneficial to minimally-invasive surgical procedures because they are able to navigate through especially difficult paths in the body. These robots also provide visualization and instrumentation during procedures. Among these robots is also a needlescopic robot that allows for single access entry with multiple ports, creating a virtually painless and scarless surgical experience.
Some of the other robots that will continue to have a role in surgeries are smaller and less complex robots that have a specific function. ENT microsurgery, cochlear ear implantation, MRI guided biopsy and vitreoretinal eye surgery robots will all have an impact on procedures. Sagentia projects that these surgical robots will have to find economies of scale from new and innovative applications to be commercially successful.
However, these robots have already had an impact on surgical procedures. Recently, surgeons and engineers at Bern University Hospital created a cochlear implant surgical robot and used it to drill a 2.5 mm wide tunnel behind the ear to implant the device. Another robot was able to perform eye surgery and cut the retina within 1/100 mm, creating a safer eye surgery environment.
“The use of specialist robots in eye surgery has opened up new opportunities. Retinal vein catheterization, for example, requires tremor free microneedle placement for a period of 10 minutes, which is made possible by the availability of a specialized robot,” said Paul Wilkins, managing director of medical at Sagentia.
Sagentia also suggests that robotics will have a bigger role in medical settings as they are integrated with artificial intelligence to create fully autonomous robots that can make decisions and perform procedures on their own.
“It seems sensible that autonomous robots will first be introduced for medical activities which involve less risk to the patient than surgery or in cases where existing data is a good predictor of future outcomes. Early examples may be ‘meet and greet’ robots taking on basic patient management tasks and then more complex tasks, such as triage,” Wilkins said. “We should, therefore, look to the consumer robotics industry, as well as the existing medical robotics community, for wider medical robotics innovations.”
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