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For the first time: A robot successfully performed a surgical operation on its own

Robots that help doctors perform surgeries have become a common sight in modern medicine. However, a team from Johns Hopkins University claims that a robot has successfully performed the first laparoscopic surgery completely on its own – without a doctor to guide it during the procedure.

Laparoscopic surgery is a widely used minimally invasive procedure in which a camera is inserted into a tube into a woman’s abdomen or reproductive system to check for problems.

The procedure, performed on a pig, is an important step towards fully autonomous operations on patients. During the operation, the robot, called STAR (Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot), successfully connected the two ends of the intestine, reports “

The researchers say STAR actually did better than real surgeons, who deviated more from the ideal incision line — causing more tissue damage.

“Our findings show that we can automate one of the most complex and delicate tasks in surgery: reconnecting two ends of an intestine. STAR performed the procedure in four animals and produced significantly better results than humans performing the same procedure,” said senior author Dr. Axel Krieger, a mechanical engineer at Johns Hopkins, said in a university news release.

Laparoscopic surgery requires nerves of steel

The procedure is perhaps the most complex task in gastrointestinal surgery, requiring a high level of precision and consistency. Even the slightest twitch of the arm or a misplaced stitch can lead to an air leak – with potentially catastrophic complications for the patient.
Scientists have specifically developed the vision-guided system for suturing soft tissues. STAR is an improvement over the 2016 model created by the same team that successfully repaired a pig’s intestine, but required a large incision and more human help. STAR features an infrared camera and new features for greater independence and improved precision. These include specialized suturing tools and state-of-the-art scanners that provide a more accurate visualization of the surgical field.

Soft tissue surgery is particularly difficult for robots because of its unpredictability. Dr Krieger adds that this forces the technology to adapt quickly to deal with unexpected obstacles.

Greater accuracy and precision

STAR features a new control system that can adjust the surgical plan in real time, just as a human surgeon would.
“What makes STAR special is that it is the first robotic system that plans, adapts, and executes a soft tissue surgical plan with minimal human intervention,” explains Dr. Krieger.

A structured 3D light tube, or endoscope, and a machine learning-based tracking algorithm guide STAR.
“We believe that an advanced 3D machine vision system is essential to making intelligent surgical robots smarter and safer,” said co-author Professor Jin Kang.

“Robotic anastomosis is one way to ensure that surgical tasks that require high precision and repeatability can be performed with greater accuracy and precision in every patient, regardless of the surgeon’s skill,” Krieger said. “We anticipate this will lead to a democratization of the surgical approach to patient care with more predictable and consistent outcomes.”

Dr. Krieger believes that robots will one day be on the battlefield performing trauma surgery on wounded soldiers.

Although in the last few years mechanical systems consisting of robotic arms with laparoscopic instruments have been helping patients, control has always been in the hands of a doctor – until now.

Human vs Ai (Robots) – Photo is for representation purpose.

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