Robotic Surgery May Be the Medicine of the Future

Intuitive’s da Vinci robotic-assisted system is already hard at work saving lives.

Jul 31, 2020

The advances in healthcare are almost too much to imagine. The idea of robotics doing surgical procedures seems to be something out of science fiction movies. But one company has taken robotic-assisted surgery out of the realm of the future into today.  

That’s because Intuitive in Sunnydale California developed the da Vinci surgical system that was one of the first robotic-assisted systems to be credited by the FDA for urology and general laparoscopic surgeries. The company was founded in 1995, at a time when robotics was still a developing industry.

Now robotics is becoming routine for minimally invasive high precision surgeries.  There are 5,582 da Vinci systems in 67 countries according to the company that have completed 7.2 million procedures.

Intuitive’s technology was experienced first-hand when the company’s vice president Ted Rogers, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer in 2017 and his surgeon used one of the products Rogers designed to treat him according to Free Think.

"I was fortunate enough to get an appointment with one of the top prostate surgeons on the west coast who happens to use our robotic systems," Rogers told Free Think.

"I have two daughters. They saw me go through my own surgery and how, for as major a surgery that was, how much of a non-event it was. I was in the hospital one morning and back the next."

The evolution of robotic surgery actually began with laparoscopic devices. While safer and less invasive than open surgery, there were still issues with training doctors on how to use them – the movement of the tools is actually reversed from moving a hand – and it uses a 2-D screen.

Robotic surgery tools were developed in the 1990s to give surgeons more natural movements, 3D vision, and a way to use even smaller instruments. The big upside is that there is a much faster recovery time for patients.

The da Vinci system is inserted with tiny incisions to fit the miniscule tools that are controlled by skilled surgeons at consoles located near the operating table. That is why they are called surgical assist tools; it is all controlled by a trained surgeon.

The da Vinci is now so mainstream that it has been featured on TV shows including Grey’s Anatomy and The Good Doctor but the company is not resting on its laurels.

"At Intuitive we talk a lot about improving patient outcomes. That concept can sometimes become abstract. My experience says this is no longer something that is abstract. It has given me more insight into what it's for and why it's important," Rogers said.

"I think we're still in the early stages of robotic-assisted surgery. We need to envision what the future might be by improving outcomes and helping surgeons treat their patients more quickly, more comfortably, with better precision, and with more information."

Intuitive has an additional robotic-assisted surgery system called Ion that allows doctors to do minimally invasive lung biopsies. And intuitive is not the only company to work with robotics. The Mako by Stryker system has a device that works on partial knee, total knee, and total knee operations according to docwirenews. Navio by Smith & Nephew also works on total knee replacements.

As the field develops, the sky will be the limit on what robotics can do for medicine. Who knows, maybe surgery in the near future will be performed completely by robots – or emergency medical holograms – in an operating room near you.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.