Ready for a Robot Surgeon?
While it's one thing to drive a car built largely by robots, to go under the knife with a robot for a surgeon might be a bridge too far for some of us -- even in this hyper-automated age.
But a report in Science Translational Medicine notes that doctors at the Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., have moved a step closer to unmanned robotic surgery with use of a device called the Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot, or STAR, which recently stitched sutures in a pig's bowel. Of course, robots are already in use in some procedures in some parts of the world: hospitals in the United States and the United Kingdom, for example, employ robot assistants for specific tasks in certain surgeries. For a "hands-off" device to work on soft tissue, however -- which by its nature tends to slip and slide when manipulated -- is a remarkable achievement.
"If you want to throw in 20 stitches, it is not enough that a human being does 19 out of 20 well," said one doctor. "You have to do all 20 of them well to have a good outcome. This machine will consistently throw in 20 perfect sutures."