In a robotic surgery breakthrough, a bot stitched up a pig’s small intestines using its own vision, tools, and intelligence to carry out the procedure. What’s more, the Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR) did a better job on the operation than human surgeons who were given the same task.
This type of procedure is particularly difficult as the soft tissue can bend and flex, but it’s necessary to perform a number of life-saving operations. The researchers claim their robot can match and even exceed the safety and precision of a human doctor.
In comparison, the uniformity of the sutures, number of mistakes and the highest pressure that the tissue could withstand without leaking, the STAR system out-performed the human and the human-directed robot. None of the living pigs had any complications from the operations.
Part of the goal of autonomous surgery is that it could reduce complications. Given the precision with which the STAR system performed these tasks, it could likely do this in a clinical setting. “Our goal is not to replace surgeons. By making tools more intelligent, we can improve [patient] outcomes,” said Peter Kim, a surgeon and senior author on the study, also in the press conference.
Robotic surgery techniques that have been used in hospitals for years are still criticized as no safer than non-robotic methods, but much more expensive. The researchers say that in the future there will be all sorts of ways for humans and robots to work together to benefit patient safety, but that the end goal is a machine that operates entirely by itself.
Ideally, autonomous robots could also do surgeries more quickly and accurately, freeing up limited space and time for surgeons’ attention to examine and diagnose their patients. The future of medical studies and sciences can take a huge leap with technology to greatly improve the odds of survival for our loved ones and this could mark a new chapter in the study of human life expectancy.