AI can uplift robotic surgery by mitigating surgeons’ stress. Algorithms include machine learning, computer vision, and deep learning.
Robotics with an impressive success ratio in surgical procedures could unlock its significant value and is here to stay with a promise of greater evolution in the coming days.
In the era of invasive smart technologies, humans' personal and professional lives are undergoing a sea of changes. Thanks to electronic evolution that is impacting our daily chores from the bedroom to the boardroom and in public spaces. Be it voice assistants, chatbots, automated and gesture-driven devices, an immersive experience with VR (virtual reality) goggles or multi-media features, drones, and robots, the influence of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning is hard to miss in every domain we come across. Some may argue against its aggressive intrusion, while others may call it a boon to mankind for its speed, accuracy, and efficacy.
From transportation to banking, retail, fashion, energy, and utility sectors to even health, digitalization is steadily deepening its roots to rule the roost. Robotic surgery is one such breakthrough in medical science that is conspicuously leaving its mark on OTs.
AI in OT rooms
Robot-assisted surgery makes waves in the surgical fraternity for its precision, hassle-free procedures, and improved outcomes. This method is applied with the help of small instruments attached to a sophisticated, flexible robotic arm. The surgeon regulates the mechanical arm via a computer. Such trailblazing surgeries allow doctors to execute complex operations with more perfection than what is achieved through traditional practices. Commonly involving minimally invasive surgery performed through tiny incisions or minor cuts, robotic surgeries are already successfully carried out on the eye, knee, kidney, gallbladder, in cancerous conditions, plus in laparoscopy and hernia operating procedures, in digestive system or gastrointestinal surgery, in colorectal surgery as well as in cases related to oncology, urology, orthopedic and cardiology, among others.
AI streamlines heavy-duty surgical procedures by zeroing in on the tools, supervising operations, and conveying warning signals. Thus, an AI-based system can guide surgical procedures with higher efficiency. In robot-assisted surgery, AI and machine learning are used for motion planning, computer vision, force sensing, teleoperation, and predictive analytics. These algorithms and models optimize the trajectory of the robotic arm, provide real-time feedback to the surgeon, adjust the arm's force, enhance the console's user interface, and guide surgical decisions.
“As technology evolves, we can expect to see even more advanced applications of AI and machine learning in robotic surgery,” volunteers Dr. Jaideep Jesson Rayapudi, MBBS, MD, serving as a senior subject matter expert in Healthcare AI at iMerit, where he helps create large-scale datasets to power a variety of healthcare AI machine-learning use cases.
Da Vinci leads the way.
The Da Vinci robotic system employed in complex surgeries is manufactured by Intuitive Surgical, Inc., an American company that develops, manufactures, and markets robotic products designed to upgrade the clinical outcomes of patients through minimally invasive surgery, most notable being the Da Vinci Surgical System. It is used in prostatectomy, cardiac valve repair, and renal and gynecologic surgical procedures. The system was named after the eminent Italian polymath Leonardo da Vinci, courtesy of his invention of a robot, the “mechanical knight.” It was a humanoid automaton believed to have been designed and constructed by the artist himself in 1495. The teeny-weeny instruments in the aforementioned surgical system move like a human hand but with a broader range of motion. The minute size of the toolkit makes it simple for surgeons to operate smoothly through a single or very few minor incisions.
Statistics prove that India currently boasts 66 robotic surgery centers with 71 robotic systems installed to implement surgical procedures (confirmed by ClinicSpots holistic healthcare). Some of India's top robotic surgery hospitals are Apollo Hospitals, Delhi, Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai, Global Hospitals Group India, Fortis Hospital, Delhi, Max Hospital, New Delhi, Medanta Hospital, Gurugram, ILS Hospitals, and Kolkata. Indeed, India is steadily embracing AI-aided robotic surgeries. The number of robot-assisted surgeries ly increasing within the country because of their elevated accuracy levels and advantageous outcomes. In India, robot-assisted surgeries have been conducted for over two decades, primarily utilizing the Da Vinci system. More recently, machines by Medtronic and Stryker are also introduced.
Is robotic surgery risk-prone?
When enquired if these surgeries are susceptible to high risks and what happens if a robot suffers a technical breakdown in the middle of a surgery, to that, Dr. Subhash Dhiware, consultant, orthopedics department, KDAH, assures that “there is no extra risk involved in robot-backed surgeries. If the robot hits a snag, the surgeon present around can immediately take over and complete the remaining job in standard fashion. But chances of such emergencies and unpredictable circumstances are meager as every piece of equipment is tested before initiating a surgery”.
“All surgical procedures are risk-prone to some degree, including robotic surgeries” Dr. Rayapudi accepts this fact. “However, in the event of any issue, say a technical failure in the middle of a surgery, a team of surgeons is present to take over from the robotic system and intervene if necessary,” he reminds us to retain faith in the technological breakthrough in medical science that is under discussion.
Robotic revolution in medical science
Robot-assisted surgery has a proven track record for general surgery, gynecology, urology, cardiac, H&N (head and neck), oncology, GI (Gastrointestinal), transplant, vascular and thoracic procedures, and so on. Besides Da Vinci, other robots are unleashing disruptive technology even in cardiology, orthopedic joint replacement, and lung biopsy.
Can robots replace surgeons?
It is important to note that a highly dedicated team of remote surgeons and AI experts play a pivotal role in robot-aided surgery. They coordinate to design and strategize the surgery using superior imaging techniques and computer simulations. They can use this material to create a detailed surgical plan considering the patient’s unique anatomy and potential complications. During the surgery, distant surgeons and AI exponents can provide real-time support to the on-site surgical team. They can use sensors to monitor the patient’s vital signs, provide guidance on using the robotic system, and adjust the surgical plan as and when required. After the surgery, this crucial data can be utilized to optimize the patient’s health and well-being and promptly address any issue or complication.
Robotic surgery, as of now, is not autonomous or fully automated. The robot does not perform the surgery independently but serves as an extension of the surgeon’s hands, allowing more correct and controlled movements. The surgeon maneuvers the procedure and makes all necessary decisions during the surgery, leaving the robot to obey the surgeon’s commands.
In robot-assisted surgeries, one surgeon typically operates one robotic system throughout a single surgery, regardless of how long it takes. This allows the surgeon to concentrate solely on the procedure and utilize the robot’s extraordinary accuracy and meticulousness to perform the surgery.
The article was first published in Digit magazine, the sister publication of CIO & Leader.