This Robot Surgeon Is Outperforming Human Doctors

By | April 14, 2017

Imagine you needed a life-saving operation. Would you choose an experienced, human surgeon to perform the procedure or a robot? According to Dr. Peter Kim, vice president of the Sheikh Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, the machine might be the better choice. Dr. Kim is specifically thinking of STAR (which stands for smart tissue autonomous robot), a robotic surgeon. The machine uses advanced 3D imaging to ‘see’ its subjects, along with sensing technology that lets it work with greater precision than humans are capable of. As a result, it is able to operate with fewer complications and better outcomes than even the most experienced human doctor.

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But, Dr. Kim says, the robot’s not likely to stand in for human doctors any time soon. “The goal is not to simply take away or replace surgeons, but really enhance surgeons’ capacity and capability,” he said. Kim also foresees a future where technology like this can be a democratizing force, making complex medical procedures available to more and more people around the world.

Robotic surgery is a type of minimally invasive surgery. “Minimally invasive” means that instead of operating on patients through large incisions, we use miniaturized surgical instruments that fit through a series of quarter-inch incisions. When performing surgery with the da Vinci Si—the world’s most advanced surgical robot—these miniaturized instruments are mounted on three separate robotic arms, allowing the surgeon maximum range of motion and precision. The da Vinci’s fourth arm contains a magnified high-definition 3-D camera that guides the surgeon during the procedure.


The surgeon controls these instruments and the camera from a console located in the operating room. Placing his fingers into the master controls, he is able to operate all four arms of the da Vinci simultaneously while looking through a stereoscopic high-definition monitor that literally places him inside the patient, giving him a better, more detailed 3-D view of the operating site than the human eye can provide. Every movement he makes with the master controls is replicated precisely by the robot. When necessary, the surgeon can even change the scale of the robot’s movements: If he selects a three-to-one scale, the tip of the robot’s arm will move just one inch for every three inches the surgeon’s hand moves.  And because of the console’s design, the surgeon’s eyes and hands are always perfectly aligned with his view of the surgical site, minimizing surgeon fatigue.

The ultimate effect is to give the surgeon unprecedented control in a minimally invasive environment. As one of our surgeons notes, “It’s as if I’ve miniaturized my body and gone inside the patient.” Utilizing this advanced technology, our surgeons are able to perform a growing number of complex urological, gynecological, cardiothoracic and general surgical procedures. Since these procedures can now be performed through very small incisions, our patients experience a number of benefits compared to open surgery, including:


Less trauma on the body
Minimal scarring, and
Faster recovery time

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