November 18, 2019

The use of robotic arms, systems and devices for surgery began in the early 80s, yet their ability to assist surgeons with difficult tasks with greater accuracy is becoming an increasingly accepted practice in operating rooms across the globe.

As technology continues to grow and evolve, generations of people are becoming more open to these types of innovations being used for life-saving procedures. Millennial parents in Asia are significantly more likely than those parents surveyed in the U.S., U.K., Brazil, and India to allow robots powered by AI to conduct surgery on their Generation Alpha child — even more so in 2019 as compared to 2018, according to a new survey conducted by IEEE.

It’s no surprise the general population and medical professionals are increasingly warming up to the idea of robotic arms assisting in– or even leading — surgeries. Technologists are working hard to improve a robot’s efficiency and machine-learning capabilities so this type of technology in the operating room becomes the new norm.

“The impact of robotic systems and devices on surgery in the next 25 years promises to be as comparable to that of manufacturing robots on industrial production over the past 25 years,” reports the IEEE Robotics and Automation Society’s technical committee for surgical robots.

The Benefits of Robotic Arms for Surgery

The benefits of using a robotic arm, system or device during surgery will drastically change and impact how surgeons run their operating rooms in the future.

“By extending human surgeons’ ability to plan and carry out surgical interventions more accurately and less invasively, surgical robotic systems can address a vital international need to greatly reduce costs, improve clinical outcomes, and improve the efficiency of health care delivery,” notes the Robotics and Automation Society.

Essentially, robotic arms are capable of assisting in surgeries that were once seen as risky or complicated. Robots are beneficial because they are consistently more accurate and steady as compared to a human hand.

“Robotization allows the surgeons to perform highly complicated procedures with ease due to the increased dexterity coupled with advanced HD 3D vision and precise maneuverability,” says IEEE member Jayakrishnan T. Nair. “The system provides fully fledged real-time connectivity of the surgeon and the area under surgery in terms of visual, auditory, tactile and haptic means. Because of this, the application of robotics surgery is not just limited to joints and the abdomen but also to help procedures for the heart, brain, spine and almost everywhere.”

The Future of Robotic Surgery

While in the future robots may not just assist, but lead surgeries, it will take a while before all skills are left in the mechanical hands of a robotic device.

“At present almost all surgical robots are assistive and under the supervision of experienced surgeons,” says Nair. “However, it allows the surgeons to reduce failures. For example, a slippage of the hand can be protected through 3D imaging and augmented reality to avoid unwanted collisions in real time.”

Engineers are aware of the needs for technical innovation before the general population will fully trust a robotic surgeon. Future research efforts of IEEE Robotics and Automation Society members may address improving the simplicity of robotic use for minimally invasive surgery, new mechatronic hand-held tools capable of augmenting the performance of surgeons, new endoscopic robots and investigating new avenues of application in micro and nano surgery in the coming years.

While we may not see a completely robotic-led surgery anytime soon, technologists are working hard to innovate new technologies to change modern medicine as we know it.

“In the coming years, robotic surgery will undoubtedly find more advancement and significance,” says Nair.