Would you let a robot surgeon stitch you up? Because it might become common practice in hospitals. Although robot-assisted surgeries are pretty frequent, a robot has recently closed up a surgery all by itself.
Because performing surgery on a human would have been a far too delicate subject, it was done on a pig. The robot, named STAR, managed to stitch up four pigs. It was completely unaided in the process. What is groundbreaking about this clever robot is the lack of guidance from the surgeons. It was only supervised. The medical staff did help STAR in the beginning, by adding fluorescent tags on the pig’s tissue.
Surgeries on soft-tissue are complicated because the tissue is very flexible. The stitches must be precise so that leaks and blockages be fully avoided. Comparisons with human stitches have revealed that STARS’S work was just as consistent. In fact, the robot was even better than its human counterparts. The sutures STAR made were placed more evenly.
On the downside, the robot is far slower than human surgeons. An 8-minute procedure for a human took STAR about 50 minutes to finish. But it is a good start, as improvement can be made. If time were to be reduced, robots could become great assistants in the surgery room. As the doctor gets ready for another procedure, the robot could finish the current operation. The ideal outcome would be an improvement in the quality of the surgeries.
Yet researchers do not intend to replace human surgeons with robots. An issue would be the lack of trust in a machine. How many people would feel comfortable being operated by a robot? At this current point in time, an unassisted surgery performed only by a robot would be too controversial. So why this need for autonomous robots in surgery rooms? Because some specialists consider the precision of a machine to outperform the human touch.
Researchers are now in the process of developing STAR for surgeries on humans. But it will only be used in simple, minor surgeries. Don’t get too excited yet, because you will have to wait to be on its list of patients. So if you want to let a robot surgeon stitch you up, wait a few more years.
IMAGE SOURCE: Wikipedia