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The History of Robotic Surgery

Posted Aug 26 2010 8:00am

Robotic surgery is a promising technology that uses high-tech robots to perform minimally invasive surgery. This surgery is conducted by inserting a small camera and very small robotic instruments inside the body by making two or three small incisions in the desired area. The camera provides a precise and clear 3D image to the surgeon who can then manipulate the robotic arms and move the instruments in the body of the patient and perform the surgery.

History and Current Applications

Puma 560 was the first robot used by Kwoh and co workers in 1985 for a neurosurgical biopsy.  The same was used three years later to perform a transurethral resection of the prostate by Davies and co-workers. Since then there have been many advances in the robotic surgery systems with robots being designed specifically depending on the type of surgery. The first robotic system to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was ROBODOC, a surgical robot developed by Integrated Surgical Supplies Ltd.

Since the 1980s, systems scientists have worked hard to develop telesurgical robots and devices that can be used to bring surgeons and patients, located in different parts of world, together. Other successful robotic surgery systems that were consequently developed include the da Vinci Surgical System (Intuitive Surgical), and the ZEUS robotic surgical system (Computer Motion).


These robotic systems have been used in laparoscopic gall bladder surgery, certain chest and cardiotomy procedures as well as bypass surgeries. These systems allowed the surgeon to manipulate the robotic arms through a computer console and monitor.

Currently, robotic applications has evolved even more, and has expanded to surgeries performed in cases like prostate cancer, bladder cancer, cardiothoracic  treatments, plastic surgery, pediatric surgery and more.

Benefits of Robotic Surgery

The use of robotic surgery eliminates the need for surgeons to be in the same room as the patient. With the help of a video conferencing specialist, surgeons can now perform surgeries with increased precision and skill as before. This serves as a major advantage in times when doctors on-call is not available to handle an emergency case.

The other major benefits include the increased flexibility and position of the robotic arms used. This augments the surgeon’s ability to maneuver the tissues with increased degrees of freedom. The more evident benefit of performing such minimally invasive surgeries is the decreased rate of infection as a result of which the patients take less time to recover. Therefore, in the end it works out well for all, doctors, patients and insurance agents.

Drawbacks and Limitations of Robotic Surgery

The main factor that has proven to be a major hurdle in the widespread use of robotic surgery is the high cost factor involved in the initial purchasing along with its high maintenance cost. Also, as these systems have not yet been established fully, there is still a lot of scope for optimization and more studies are required to judge the efficiency of these systems in different surgeries. Large size of these systems is also a major drawback because it is difficult to accommodate them in a surgical room, along with the other staff.

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