Robots that can perform surgery are evolving and improving and are increasingly present in operating rooms alongside surgeons. But will they one day completely replace surgeons?
A research team has succeeded in developing an autonomous surgical system. For the first time, a robot was able to perform a laparoscopic intestinal anastomosis without human guidance.
Surgical robots are not entirely new, and there are already many models that can improve accuracy or perform operations remotely. Until now, however, these devices have always been controlled by humans. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University wanted to make surgery fully automated and developed a robot that can perform intestinal anastomosis without human assistance.
In a paper published in the journal Science Robotics, the researchers describe the improvements made to the robot, which is called Star (Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot). The robot had already successfully performed an operation in 2016, but with a large incision that required human intervention. With the new model, two parts of the intestine were successfully joined in a laparoscopic operation.
Results “significantly better” than a human surgeon
The robot was equipped with specialized suturing tools and 3D monochrome endoscopy. They used machine learning to create a three-dimensional representation of the tissue being manipulated. The operation was successfully performed on pigs without human assistance.
“Star performed the operation on four animals and achieved significantly better results than humans performing the same operation,” says Axel Krieger, one of the authors.
The advancements of these surgical robots could democratize access to specialized surgeries, providing more consistent results and a better outcome for patients.