Robotic surgery has arrived! A four-armed operating robot named da Vinci is cutting into patients in ways that doctors and surgeons never thought they could.
Under the glare of an operating theatre lamp, Paul Renforth at the Freeman hospital in Newcastle, England demonstrates the £2 million (RM11mil) da Vinci robot that has transformed surgery on patients. The four-armed robot is operated by a surgeon from a booth using two finger grips that move the arms and control the instruments on the end of each.
All in, the robot is about 2m-high and 1.5m across. Its arms go inside the patient though small incisions in the skin. Looking through a 3D viewfinder hooked up to a camera on the robot, the surgeon can magnify, grasp, cut and cauterise tissue inside.
The dexterity of the robot means surgeons can operate with more precision. They can remove cancerous tissue nearly impossible to reach otherwise. The robot is already used for heart bypass operations and to remove cancers throughout the body, including those in the lungs, throat, prostate, bladder, spleen and colon.
“You can rotate the instruments 360 degrees, so they are more dexterous than the human hand,” says Renforth, da Vinci co-ordinator at the hospital. “We are going into places now that we couldn’t get into before. We treat laryngeal tumours at the back of the tongue, where we can (go) down and underneath and access and cut away the tumours. Normally, that would be done by splitting the lower jaw and going in from the side.”
At the end of each operation, the instruments on each arm are taken off, sterilised, and reused on the next patient. Most tools can be used up to 10 times before they're discarded.
It's early days for robotic surgery, but at the Freeman, cancer operations seem to be more successful, because surgeons can see tumours better and remove tissue more easily. Surgeons learn to operate the robot by practising on cadavers. – Guardian News & Media