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Rise of the Surgical Robots – As Told by a Couple of Surgeons

Another story for a growing list of surgical robotics.

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Who’s the ideal surgeon? Someone savvy; someone skilled. Someone efficient and dexterous. To most people, that job description sounds like one for the most educated, well-trained medical professionals. But to Peter Kim, a general and thoracic surgeon, that job description sounds ideal for someone — or something — else: a robot.

Kim is among the researchers who have created what they call STAR (Supervised Autonomic Robot). It’s a robot that can do everything a human surgeon can, only better. And unlike its mechanized predecessors, it can operate on soft tissue within the body.

The robot, which is described in a recent paper in the journal Science Translational Medicine, has an arm fitted with a surgical tool, a force sensor, and a vision system. Under the supervision of Kim and his team, STAR was able to perform complex surgeries on pig intestines. (Pigs’ internal anatomy is much like that of humans.) When the surgical results were compared to those of human surgeons, the ones performed by the robot were more consistent and had fewer mistakes.

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