Exploring the current state of robotic-assisted surgery and what to expect from future surgical robots.
It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly two decades since Intuitive Surgical launched its first da Vinci system. And yet, in many ways, the field of robotic-assisted surgery is still in its infancy.
“There’s no university program on robotic-assisted surgery today,” said Sal Brogna, an executive vice president and the chief operating officer at Intuitive. “We’re at the early stages of creating a whole new technology sector. I assume someday you’ll go to universities and they’ll have robotic-assisted surgery courses, but we’re creating it now.”
Intuitive’s da Vinci became the first robotic-assisted surgery system to be cleared for general laparoscopic surgery back in 2000. Today, the Sunnyvale, CA-based company is on its fourth-generation da Vinci system that is designed to be a comprehensive surgical device and can serve multiple surgical specialties, from urology and gynecology to general surgery, thoracic surgery, and even ear, nose, and throat surgeries. As of Sept. 30, 2017, Intuitive had 4,271 surgical systems installed worldwide, including 2,770 in the United States.
“It’s been a great journey for us, very rewarding,” Brogna told MD+DI. “We obviously started in a very simple place that was a very compelling story, ‘let’s make robotics help cardiac surgeons by doing bypass surgery without cracking open the chest.’ That was a very compelling story. We never fulfilled all the requirements for cardiac surgeons, but as we moved in and other people saw the technology – and that’s been the fun part about the business – as other surgeons saw the technology emerge, they found applications that were relevant, the urologists being the first ones that brought it into prostate [procedures]. Over the years, it’s been a great learning experience because we work closely with surgeons and as more and more specialties came to us, we had to add features and capabilities that the prior generations didn’t have.”
The fourth-generation family of da Vinci products, specifically the da Vinci Xi platform, was strongly targeted toward the general surgery market, Brogna said. He described general surgery as a rich marketplace with about a handful of subspecialties within it and the surgeons in those subspecialties had very unique and demanding requirements for a robotic-assisted surgical system. That’s why the da Vinci Xi has many capabilities that previous generations of the system just didn’t have.
Image Credit: Intuitive Surgical