New Delhi: Moving a step closer to automated surgery, scientists have created a new type of robot that is capable of stitching up tissue in living animals without a real doctor pulling the strings.
They say the new supervised autonomous robot, Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR) can perform complex surgery as well, and in some cases better than human surgeons albeit under close supervision.
But in small tests using pigs, the robotic arm performed at least as well, and in some cases a bit better, as some competing surgeons in stitching together intestinal tissue, researchers reported in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
"The purpose wasn't to replace surgeons," said Dr Peter CW Kim of Children's National Health System in Washington, a pediatric surgeon who led the project. "If you have an intelligent tool that works with a surgeon, can it improve the outcome? That's what we have done."
Watch the video below that shows a robot surgeon sewing up intestines of piglets by itself!
Video credit: wwwAAASorg/AAAS/Carla Schaffer/YouTube
Wednesday's project is "the first baby step toward true autonomy," said Dr. Umamaheswar Duvvuri of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, a head and neck surgeon and robotic specialist.
He cautioned people to not expect to see doctors leave entire operations in a robot's digital hands yet as the robot is designed to do one specific tasks, similar to machines in other industries.
Although robotic surgery techniques that have been used in hospitals for years, they are still criticized as no safer than non-robotic methods.
However, researchers claim their robot can perform the procedure on its own once programmed.