In the past few years, robots have steadily crept their way into the operating room. Putting the robotics into surgeries have a lot of promising benefits, the robots can help in reducing error rates while increasing the efficiency of surgeries. The major challenge with it is the development of a robot that can perform the surgery completely on its own. So, the precision of the robotic movements and the surgery are in general are somewhere only as good as the skills of the doctor who controls it.
Meanwhile, a history was made when the Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR) very smartly expertly stitched the intestine of a living pig in the Children’s National Medical Center (CNMC) Sheikh Zayed Institute with a very little or no help. The intestinal anastomosis is surely a challenging procedure as the tissues do not retain their shape due to its softness. STAR engages an intricate and the complex layout of both the 3D and the NIR imaging techniques that are amplified by a pressure sensor so that the site of stitches can be defined and so as the tension.
The researcher’s goal with this development was creating a device that could be helpful in performing soft tissue procedure by itself; without any help. So, they developed a machine that they called as a Smart Autonomous Robot or STAR, that is a lightweight robotic arm that is meant for leaning over a surgery table with a stitching tool that would be attached to its end. The scientists at CNMC marked the areas that were to be sewn. When these were exposed to the NIR rays; the areas that were marked were illuminated and were later tracked by STAR. The autonomous surgical machine was later able to determine the exact site to be operated and to a precision of millimeters.
The Imaging system of STAR analyzed the tissue and customized its operation technique for checking and stitching the intestine at the precision spot. For preventing the stitches from rupturing the STAR’s design team managed to configure the algorithm of the robot-surgeon in a way that it could sew itself according to the tension and the spacing considerations.
Before performing the surgery, the doctors performed the preprogramming of the devices for some specific operations to be performed by telling the robots that how much distance should be maintained between each of the stitches, and how many stitches should be there. The special and fluorescent biomarkers were also added in the tissues so that the robot will get an idea of the directions as well.
For testing out their devices they had a robot to perform stitches that connected the bowel segments together in the pigs. They also had surgeons and on the other hand, the robot-assisted machines that performed the same procedure. When they compared them all together the researchers later found that the robotic STAR machine was on an average more efficient than the other two methods.
In the documents, the researchers have reported that 60 percent of the surgeries were performed completely autonomously; meaning, the surgeons provided no help during the procedure. For the next 40 percent, the researchers made adjustments were really minor and they could also think that these can be autonomous 100 percent of the time.
With more research, the researchers believed that this could be used regularly under the supervision of the surgeon and should have the potential of decreasing the complications to offer better outcomes for saving lives. At last, the only aspect that remains to be addressed is totally the amount of control that the surgeon should yield to the robotic surgical systems.