The surgeon, who has spent 15 minutes gently tearing through tissue, suddenly pauses to gesture ever-so-slightly with his tiny scissors. “Do you see what’s on this side? That’s nerves.” He moves the instrument a few millimeters to the right. “And on this one? That’s cancer.”
Ashutosh Tewari is the head of the urology department at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He is in the process of removing a patient’s cancerous prostate, the walnut-sized gland in the delicate area between the bladder and the penis. This surgery—one of three that Tewari performs on an average day—takes place entirely within an area the size of a cereal bowl. Tewari’s movements are deliberate and exact. Just a few wrong cuts could make the patient incontinent or unable to perform sexually for the rest of his life.
But Tewari is making those cuts from 10 feet away. With a robot.