Medical robots and robotically assisted surgery are not exactly news, as this technology has been used for over two decades now, although constant improvements and developments are being made in the field. The latest news in the area refers to medical robots that are being designed to operate on beating human hearts. These new robots can be remotely directed by surgeons across the globe, representing the latest generation of medical equipment. There are numerous applications in which medical robots have been used, from general surgery to neurosurgery, pediatrics and orthotics, but never on a beating heart so far. The robot is being designed by experts at the German national aeronautics and space research center and designers there stated that their ambition is to create a robot that can perform surgery on a beating heart, while the surgeon sees a virtually stabilized 3D video picture of the heart. The surgeon will thus be able to focus on the tasks of the surgery, while the robot follows the motion of the heart.
A great advantage of robotically assisted surgery is the possibility of remote surgery, which means the medical physician can be located anywhere on the globe during the surgery, using a console to telemanipulate the robot. By controlling the robot’s arms through telemanipulation, the surgeon is able to carry out sophisticated operations and perform minimally invasive surgery on patients, which means minimal incisions and faster recovery for the patient. It also means reduced risks for infections and post op complications, not to mention the fact that doctors will probably be more protected against medical negligence claims. Medical errors are, unfortunately, an often occurrence and patients have become more and more aware of their legal right to ask for compensation. If you click here, you will see just how serious of a problem medical negligence is. There are virtually hundreds of resources on how to file a claim for medical negligence and numerous solicitors that provide such services. The new generation of medical robots will significantly reduce human errors and improve the standard of quality and efficiency for health care services around the world.
One of the biggest benefits brought by medical robots, especially the latest designs, is the fact that telemanipulation techniques enable surgeons to operate on astronauts, without leaving Earth. This is a great way to ensure medical assistance and services for space shuttles staff, which further improves the chances for long-term space missions to remote locations. Although minimally invasive surgeries have been successfully performed in a wide number of cases, heart surgery was never among them, because a heart lung machine needs to take over the functions of the heart during the surgery, which means the patient must be opened up. However, the new robot designed by the Germans would allow the heart to continue beating during the surgery, but show the surgeon a static image, which will enable him or her to perform operations more easily.
Not only that, but the concern for medical care in space has been so great and such an important issue recently, that robotic engineers and specialists at NASA have come up with a concept to build a doctor robonaut. It may seem far fetched at first sight, and the truth is that the project is in its very early stages, but its value and usefulness are irrefutable. Robotically assisted surgery is about building a robotic telemedicine platform that is purpose-focused, which means built to do one specific task or allow a surgeon to do a specific task better and easier, but this may have no value in space, if there is no clear determination of what’s wrong with an astronaut. All astronauts are trained in basic medical procedures and surgery and many of the people going into space are doctors, although not the kind of doctors that fix people, but nonetheless the need for a generalist is increasing.
As mentioned before, medical robots are usually build to perform a very specific task, as robots are notoriously bad at being generalists, but the latest project NASA has been working on comes to end that myth. Since humans are getting better and better at exploring outer space, it is only a matter of time until something goes wrong on the way to the Moon or something and a doctor will be needed, a doctor that knows more than the basic procedures. This is why NASA has resorted to the help of great doctors to teach the generalist robot Robonaut to be a doctor, training it in performing simple procedures and then even more complicated ones through teleoperations. As already said, the research is in its preliminary stages, so it will still be a while until the robot will be able to safely provide medical care to astronauts, but the important thing is that the research is on the roll.
It becomes more and more obvious that we are beginning to rely more and more on robotic systems, not only in space, but on Earth as well. The medical field is just one of the areas where robotics have started to take over a great part of human tasks and attributions. Designing and creating a very capable generalist platform that has the ability to transform into an efficient doctor on demand seems like the tip of the iceberg in medical robotics, which may leave people wondering what’s coming next. Perhaps, soon enough we’ll only be sending robots into space without any human astronauts. Whatever the future may preserve, the constant and extraordinary advances that medical robotics is experiencing are coming as a great help and invaluable support for medicine anywhere, both on Earth and in outer space.