It’s already been a busy year for Intuitive Surgical, the manufacturer that dominates the robotic assisted surgical space with the da Vinci line and stands as one of the fastest-growing companies in healthcare. New FDA clearances and product launches have kept Intuitive locked to the top of the medical industry portion of the business news section.
The distant lead Intuitive has on emerging competitors could reasonably inspire a cautious, reserved approach. Instead, the leaders at Intuitive insist they remain committed to delivering innovation to the marketplace.
To learn more, Surgical Products interviewed Sal Brogna, executive vice president and COO at Intuitive Surgical.
What can you tell us about the SureForm 60?
SureForm 60 is a new, single-patient use 60mm robotic stapling instrument that is compatible with our da Vinci X and Xi Surgical Systems. SureForm 60 is indicated for use during general, thoracic, gynecologic, urologic, and pediatric procedures.
SureForm 60 accommodates procedures associated with larger organ transections and across a greater range of tissue thicknesses, eliminating the need for a third-party stapler during da Vinci procedures requiring longer staple lengths or in thick tissue situations.
It aids surgeons in giving them a greater degree of autonomy by enabling them to remain seated at the surgeon console during the entire case, saving both time and expense for the healthcare provider.
What’s especially innovative about the SureForm 60?
It’s the first stapler to offer surgeons 120 degrees of fully wristed articulation — 60 degrees up, right, left, or down — which is a greater range of motion than their hands. The articulation lets surgeons maneuver the stapler and approach tissue from the most ideal angle, and reduces the need to pull tissue towards the stapler.
This stapler also helps address issues of “over firing” during surgery. We developed technology that allows the stapler to take 1,000 tissue compression measurements per second before and during firing. It automatically adjusts the firing process as the staples are formed and the surgeon makes the transection.
Precision is obviously a major benefit of the da Vinci and robotic-assisted surgery in general. How will the SureForm enhance that quality for surgeons?
When you combine the attributes of da Vinci X and Xi — such as tremor filtration and high definition 3D vision — with the stapler’s tip stability and the SmartFire automatic measurements and adjustments, we help surgeons control tissue, the integrity of the cut line, and achieve more precise stapler manipulation and placement.
Placement is an important feature that allows the surgeon to get better transection performance without the need for precise port placement. This allows for easier set-up and more repeatable results.
What can you tell us about the SmartFire technology as it interfaces with the SureForm 60? How will that technology make a difference for surgeons?
Surgeons engage the SmartFire technology by pressing a pedal at the surgeon console. The integrated software begins making the measurements and automatically adjusting the firing process. For procedures that require longer staple lines, SureForm 60’s technology helps prevent inadvertent tissue damage that can occur from “over firing” the stapler.
In addition, because it’s fully wristed, surgeons can approach tissue from an optimal angle.
How does the SureForm complement Intuitive Surgical’s stapling portfolio and other supporting technologies for the da Vinci?
With the addition of SureForm 60, da Vinci staplers have all of the critical line lengths: 30, 45, and 60 mm. Similar to the company’s other instruments, SureForm 60 is designed to integrate with the da Vinci Surgical System, and, it gives the surgeon control over positioning, grip, clamp, and fire.
This has already been a fairly active year for Intuitive Surgical. What other developments do you think have been most important for the company of late?
I’ll preface this by saying that while we are a global leader in minimally invasive surgical innovations, our approach has always focused on products and services that empower physicians to help their patients. We’ve been doing this for more than two decades, and we’ve developed a deep understanding of what our customers need.
One recent development is our da Vinci SP Surgical System. The FDA cleared SP in May of this year for urologic procedures appropriate for a single port approach. This clearance is important to us as it illustrates our continued focus on delivering minimally invasive technologies that make a difference for surgeons and can positively impact patient outcomes.
The SP — the SP standing for single port — has one port, through which a single cannula enters the body and the instruments all emerge from that cannula around the target anatomy. This helps avoid external instrument collision that can occur in narrow workspaces.
A single-port approach provides surgeons with robotic-assisted technology designed for deep and narrow access to tissue in the body. The ability to enter the body through a single, small incision supports surgeons to perform more complex procedures.
In the future, we anticipate pursuing further regulatory clearances for the da Vinci SP Surgical System, including transoral, transanal, and extraperitoneal applications, broadening the applicability of the SP platform over time.
It looks like the robotic-assisted surgery market is going to get a little more crowded in the next few years. How is Intuitive Surgical primed to meet those new competitors?
We expected this competition. We think it validates what we’ve been working on for the past 20 years. As we see it, surgery will continue to be an important healthcare intervention, especially with the growth in our aging population, and we believe we are just at the beginning of our potential to impact surgical outcomes.
For more than 20 years we have built a strong development team that is dedicated to bringing innovations to surgeons. With the experience gained from four generations of product development, we are well-positioned to continue in this innovative approach to surgery and will be up to the challenge of staying ahead of competitive offerings.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Intuitive’s technology innovations are rooted in extensive research and an understanding of surgeons’ needs. Our motivation has always been to help surgeons improve patient outcomes, decrease variability in surgery, and increase efficiencies. SureForm 60 is the latest evidence of our commitment to help make surgery more effective, less invasive, and easier on surgeons, patients, and their families.
We are excited about what the future holds for robotic-assisted surgery. Last year, there were more than 875,000 robotic-assisted procedures using the da Vinci Surgical System performed worldwide, and we expect adoption to continue to grow around the world as hospitals and surgeons are increasingly choosing minimally invasive surgery over other approaches, such as open surgery.