The pros and cons of surgical robots


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The pros and cons of surgical robots

  1. 1. McClendon 1Nicolas McClendonMrs. MaxwellBritish LiteratureOctober 22, 2011 The Pros and Cons of Surgical Robots Surgical Robots are the future of all medical procedures and surgeries to be performed onpatients across the world and will be widely accepted as the next generation of medicaltechnology. Some may believe this statement without question, while others may disagreecompletely. Unlike basic human speculation, these robots are not humanoid, meaning that therobot looks and moves like a human; in fact, these robots can consist of a single arm component( Surgical robots are not a new topic; on the contrary, these types of robots wereintroduced around 1985 with the Puma 560 being the first robot to perform surgery( The Puma 560 was created so that doctors could performneurosurgical biopsies on patients without making too many mistakes and so they could operatewith much greater precision ( The Puma 560 then evolved into amore complex robot called the PROBOT, which was developed by Imperial College Londonaround 1992 ( Unlike the Puma 560, the PROBOT was specializedin removing and operating on prostatic tissue; however, this robot was made to aid in the surgeryinstead of completely taking over, as did the PUMA 560 ( WhileImperial London College was developing the PROBOT, the ISS or Integrated Surgical Systems
  2. 2. McClendon 2was marketing the ROBODOC, which was the first robot ever to assist in Total Hip Arthroplastyor a THA( The ROBODOC was specially designed tooperate withgreat precision on hip replacement surgeries ( Because of itssuccess in this type of surgery, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared the ROBODOCmaking it the only active robotic system authorized and cleared by the FDA for orthopedicsurgeries ( 1994, the world of robotics was revolutionized withthe introduction of the ORTHOPILOT, a system that first implemented the navigation system ofall robots used for surgery today. All these robots have their strengths, which some findcomforting,but they also have weaknesses causing others to be repelled and afraid. A commonmisconception about surgical robots is that the robot takes over the surgery; on the contrary,most surgical robots are controlled by surgeons and/or are made to assist the surgeon. Surgicalrobots are made to do one thing, and that is to perform surgery. Surgical robots perform surgerywith extreme accuracy and provide the patient with a minimally invasive surgery; however, theserobots have the tendency to take away some of the control that surgeons would prefer tomaintain. As the technology and the knowledge of how to program robots increases and improves,robots performing surgeries will have greater accuracy and stability and will also cut down onthe mistakes that can occur when a human surgeon is operating on a patient. For example,during a surgery, a surgeon has to constantly stand over a patient and carefully operate withprecision. Although surgeons are trained to be very precise and usually have a considerableamount of experience due to internships and previous surgeries, it is an inescapable fact that thehuman body strains and tires therefore keeping the surgeon from being as precise in his work ashe would before the excessive use of energy. Because of the exhaustion from standing over a
  3. 3. McClendon 3patient for countless hours working to complete the operation, the surgeon will grow tired andwill be prone to more mistakes such as involuntary twitching and lack of focus; however, using arobot could change all of that. When using a surgical robot, there will be less strain on thehuman body and human mistakes that are the result of continuous stress on the body will becomea problem of the past and will be thrown out of the picture because direct intervention from thesurgeon will not be necessary ( Using these robots will end unnecessaryinjury to the patient, it will end the suffering of patients who have an infected abrasion or cutfrom the surgeon’s lack of focus and control, and it will end the unnecessary deaths of patientsthat could have lived if the surgeon had worked faster and was not worn down over the hours.With these robots, the necessity for a doctor, nurse, or surgeon to be in the same room, or eventhe same state as the patient, may become obsolete. The use of surgical robots will end thepotential danger of mistakes and will increase the safety of surgery. In most dangerous surgeries, such as open-heart surgery, the patient is left in the hospitalfor a long time in order to recover from the doctors and surgeons cutting the patient’s body opento perform the planned operation.This illustration brings up the concept of minimally invasivesurgery for all surgical procedures. Minimally invasive surgery is, and has been a broad topiceven before the creation of surgical robots ( This concept is referring to theavoidance of long incisions and instead using small incisions and long devices to operate andnavigate through the tissue in the body ( With robotic surgery, there will beno need for invasive surgeries, meaning the surgery will not be causing as much damage. Forinstance, when performing open-heart surgeries, surgeons must make an incision just below therib cage. The surgeons then proceed to work his or her way through to the heart, making moreincisions along the way, some bigger than the first. To stop the bleeding, the surgeonsometimes
  4. 4. McClendon 4will have to burn the veins closed, which could result in major scarring and pain. Then thesurgeons and doctors proceed to stitch the incisions. When the patient wakes up, they mostlikelywill be in extreme pain, even with the use of painkillers.The practice of surgical robotswould lessen the recovery time of the patient for serious procedures and provide a surgery that isless invasive than the standard procedures used ( This means patients thatneed and require surgery would recover faster. The pain from incisions and possible removal ofan internal organ, such as gall bladder or an appendix, would be decreased exponentially. Withthe shortened recovery time, the patients would be able to check out of the hospital earlier thannormal and would be able to get on with their every day lives. Surgical robots could mean theend of excessive and needless pain and would decrease the requirement of a long recovery. Surgical robotics, although created back in the 1990’s, are seen as a new and unknownconcept. Most people believe that having surgery performed by robots means that the robotsperforming the surgery, execute the surgery autonomously, meaning that the robot itself is eitherprogrammed according to the patient’s specific case or the robot is partially or fully self awareand performs the surgery based on its knowledge on how to complete the patients operation type.A common misconception that many doctors, surgeons, and medical workers have, and thatmany people agree with, is that these surgical robots have the ability to take control away fromthe surgeon preventing the doctor or surgeon from controlling the operation ( Forexample, as technology increases, the autonomous consciousness of the robots will alsoincrease( If this becomes a reality, the robots may be able to control every technicaland physical aspect of the surgery; however, the robots may be unable to sense any dangerousproblems that they are causing or problem that arise spontaneously, such as excessive bleedingand lowered vital signs. If a human surgeon was performing the operation, he or she would
  5. 5. McClendon 5notice these problem and address the problem immediately, attempting to fix the situation;however, if a robot was performing the surgery, it may not read the problem or it may notregister the abnormality as a threat to the patient, resulting in the death of the patient from theunintentional ignorance of the robot. From a financial standpoint, surgical robots may increasethe number of lawsuits a hospital receives and the robots may become more of a liability than anasset. In the end, although there may be many benefits thatsurgical robots can provide to thesurgical profession, it would be best if the surgeons obtained and kept complete control of anoperation rather than therobots, which may make the robots become an unnecessary object thatpeople fear rather than appreciate. Surgical robots have many benefits, some more beneficial than others, but all equallyimportant. They have the ability to be one of the most stable and safe operating tools known inthe medical field, they are able to perform surgeries that consist of a 1cm incision and furtheroperations, still minimally invasive, which allows the patient to wake up in less pain thanstandard surgery, or even pain free causing the patient to recover quickly. All these benefitswould change the nature of every surgery performed when these robots are installed in thehospitals; however, these types of robots also have their downsides, the worst being that as theserobots become more technologically advanced, they will become more “conscious” and will takeaway most of the control from the surgeons, which may have potentially fatal results. Eventhough these robots have both their assets and liabilities, we can still count on them to get the jobdone, with and sometimes without a surgeon controlling the robot. The future may holdexponential increases in this type of technology, and we can expect that as these become moreadvanced, we will be seeing more of these surgical devices resulting in robots that are able to
  6. 6. McClendon 6perform surgeries that could never have been done while a human controlled the system andprocedure.