Surgeons operating on patients while controlling robotic arms could become a new norm in hospitals.
The assistance of robots in surgical rooms are predicted to transform the way operations are performed by allowing surgeries to be carried out as keyhole procedures.
As the use of robotic surgery becomes more popular, an increasing number of medics are being trained in how to use them. They allow doctors to perform complex techniques using a minimally invasive approach.
Consultant colorectal surgeon Jonathan Morton is among a handful of physicians who have tried out the machinery.
He said: “It’s quite exciting to see robotic techniques rolled out – from an ergonomic point of view, the system is set up better so that the stresses on the body are less, reducing injury rates for surgeons.
“It’s not actually the robot doing the surgery – it’s the surgeon with the experience and the knowledge telling the robot what to do, effectively it’s the same as keyhole surgery with robotics.”
The robots have four flexible joints like a human arm and are controlled by a surgeon using a joystick and a 3D screen. The technology is capable of carrying out a wide range of tasks.
CMR Surgical, the company behind the robot, claims the technology will revolutionise healthcare.
The firm’s chief medical officer, Mark Slack, said: “The vision we have is that we have built a system to enable many more patients to get MAS (minimal access surgery) and all the benefits that that brings for them – like reduced complications, reduced pain – and the aim is to put these in as many hospitals as we can.”
The NHS is developing a £50m framework for robotic surgical equipment, soon to be rolled out across the country.
So does the future of surgical procedures rest in non-human hands?
Richard Kerr, of The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS), believes it’s poised to change the nature of surgery forever.
“The robots are not going to be taking over what surgeons do. They will become an integral part of the tools surgeon use to carryout operations on their patients,” he said.
“Maybe in the long-distance future some aspects of surgery may potentially be delivered by robots.”
The RCS says a majority of NHS trusts have guidelines which surgeons are expected to follow when using robotics