Robot surgeons provide many benefits, but how autonomous should they be?

Keyhole surgery using robotic arms has transformed medicine. But the next generation of advanced robotics might be able to surpass the skills of surgeons

Neil Thomas wished he could have been awake during the operation to remove a 6cm cancerous tumour from his colon. He was one of the first people to go under the scalpel of Cardiff and Vale University Health Board’s new robotic systems in June 2022. And, as the founder of a software company, the technology interested him.

Thomas’s surgeon, James Ansell, would once have stooped over his patient’s body to perform the operation. Instead, he stood behind a console on another side of the theatre wearing 3D glasses. His hands grasped two joysticks, which controlled the four robotic arms that huddled around Thomas’s unconscious body.

“My colleague said to me the other day that this feels like cheating,” Ansell says. “We’ve done it for so many years: stood at the bedside at an awkward angle, sweating because it’s really physically demanding surgery. [Now,] sitting down, there’s no pressure on the surgeon. It’s very straightforward.”

Robots have revolutionised the practice of surgery since their introduction to operating theatres in 2001. They can now be found in hospitals all across the world. The most prolific device, the Da Vinci, is used in 1.5m operations every year, according to its California-based manufacturer Intuitive Surgical.

Now, combined with AI and other novel technologies, engineers are developing advanced robotics to herald another new era for surgery – and this time, the surgeon’s role in the operating theatre may change altogether.

Although robots are put to a variety of tasks in surgery, their use as a tool in performing laparoscopy – otherwise known as keyhole surgery – has attracted the most attention within and outside medicine. Keyhole surgery reduces the time patients need to recover by operating through smaller incisions. This subsequently reduces the chance that patients catch infections, and so accelerates their recoveries.

By Charlie Metcalfe | The Guardian

Illustration Credit: Philip Lay


About Peter Coffaro 506 Articles
Peter Coffaro is a growth-driven and strategic executive with over 25 years of progressive management success in the medical device industry. With a proven track record and recognized expertise, Peter has established himself as one of the top influencers in medical sales, as acknowledged by prestigious publications such as the World Journal of Orthopedics, Exponential Healthtech, and Throughout his career, Peter has accumulated 10 years of combined sales management experience, excelling in various roles including Director, General Manager, Distributor, and Vice President. He has worked for industry-leading orthopedic companies such as Zimmer, DePuy, and Stryker, solidifying his deep knowledge and network within the field. Peter’s passion for innovation and emerging technologies led him to found OrthoFeed, an award-winning blog covering digital orthopedic news and emerging medical technologies. Through this platform, he stays at the forefront of the industry and contributes to the dissemination of valuable insights. Peter is a three-time Hall of Fame award winner at Johnson and Johnson, demonstrating his exceptional contributions and impact on the organization. His expertise extends to areas such as organizational development, business development, sales management, digital marketing, and professional education. Peter earned a B.S. degree in Biology and Chemistry from Northern Illinois University, further complementing his comprehensive understanding of the medical field. With his wealth of experience, strategic mindset, and dedication to advancing healthcare, Peter Coffaro is a valuable asset and leader in the medical device industry.

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