Designed to make surgery easier and more efficient, surgeon-controlled medical robotic systems may actually pose technical and mental challenges for surgeons in the operating room. MST Medical Surgery Technologies has introduced the very first image-guided robotic technology that is a major step towards autonomous robotic control. Empowering the surgical suite, benefiting patients, surgeons and healthcare providers – AutoLap™ is poised to transform laparoscopy operating rooms across the world.
Rising Demand for Laparoscopic Surgery and Surgical Robotics
Laparoscopic surgery is the least invasive surgery method and is achieved by making small holes in the body through which the surgeon operates. A laparoscope captures the image of the surgical cavity, which is projected on a screen. Because of the benefits of these operations, the demand for laparoscopic surgery continues to grow with approximately 7.5 million procedures performed annually worldwide.
The use of robots for performing laparoscopic surgery has seen significant growth over the years. According to market research, the surgical robot device market reached $3.2B in 2014 and is expected to grow to $20B by 2021. The goal of robotic surgery, or robot-assisted surgery, is to allow surgeons to perform many types of surgical procedures with more precision, flexibility and control than is possible with conventional laparoscopic techniques. Surgical robots currently in use require the surgeon to manually control robotic arms from a remote console. In addition to controlling the arms, the surgeon must also control the laparoscope for maintaining the field of view.
Challenges of Laparoscope Control Posed by Surgeon-Controlled Surgical Robots
In “A Review of Camera Viewpoint Automation in Robotic and Laparoscopic Surgery” (Pandya, A.; Reisner, L.A.; King, B.; Lucas, N.; Composto, A.; Klein, M.; Ellis, R.D. Robotics 2014, 3, 310-329), the authors describe the use of surgeon-controlled robots:
“Teleoperating a robot using indirect visual information poses many technical challenges because the user is expected to control the movement(s) of the camera(s) in addition to the robot’s arms and other elements.”
The authors of this study explain that by removing the user from the sensory work site, there is a reduction in visual, auditory, and haptic feedback – which results in decreased situational awareness and greater mental challenges. Users of these systems often report difficulty achieving ideal camera viewpoints in reaction to unexpected events because of the complex camera positioning issues, latency issues, and task overload.
While operating these systems, surgeons are forced to constantly manipulate the camera in response to the progress of the procedure in order to achieve effective viewpoints with manual controls or other methods such as eye tracking. As a result, errors and increased operating times are more likely due to the distractions and demands of these surgeon-controlled robotic surgery systems that lack any real autonomy. These types of systems aren’t truly robotic rather they act as “slaves” under the control of the surgeon as stated in the article.
Furthermore, the training necessary for these surgeon-controlled surgical robotics is extensive and costly, requiring months to years for completion followed by a significant learning curve overcome by hands-on experience.
Introducing AutoLap™ – Image-Guided Laparoscope Control
Truly transformative, AutoLap™ is the only image-guided robotic laparoscope positioning system that works alongside the surgeon. Image-guided control eliminates some of the most significant challenges of current surgical robotic systems that rely upon the surgeon’s control of the laparoscope, including:
- Physical separation of the surgeon and patient
- Indirect view from a camera
- Indirect manipulation of remote site
Image analysis software built into MST’s AutoLap™ based on advanced algorithmic architecture intelligently interprets image data in order to seamlessly guide the laparoscope without the need for the surgeon’s direct control. Interacting with the surgeon’s gestures and movements, the actions taken by the surgeon guide the robotic system in real-time. The result? Surgeons are able to achieve full and natural control – with minimal interaction with the system.
Standing apart from human-controlled surgical robotics, this technology provided by MST includes various notable features, among them:
- Tissue collision warnings to prevent the camera from accidentally touching tissue, which causes smudging of the lens
- Automatic zoom corrections that zoom in or out while maintaining camera focus on the area the surgeon is working on
Economically, AutoLap™ is a cost-saving surgical robotics system in many ways. In comparison to human-controlled surgical robotic systems there is no need for extensive training and it doesn’t require dedicated surgical tools or OR imaging systems or equipment. Surgeries can be performed more naturally and efficiently by allowing the surgeon to keep full attention on the patient and task at hand without being distracted by operating a machine during a procedure.
FDA-cleared and CE marked, AutoLap™ is already being used in operating rooms in the United Kingdom, Netherlands and United States. More about AutoLap™ can be found on the MST website and on this video.