Robotic Surgery: A Current Perspective

Anthony R. Lanfranco, BAS; Andres E. Castellanos, MD; Jaydev P. Desai, PhD; William C. Meyers, MD

Disclosures

Annals of Surgery. 2004;239(1) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

Objective: To review the history, development, and current applications of robotics in surgery.
Background: Surgical robotics is a new technology that holds significant promise. Robotic surgery is often heralded as the new revolution, and it is one of the most talked about subjects in surgery today. Up to this point in time, however, the drive to develop and obtain robotic devices has been largely driven by the market. There is no doubt that they will become an important tool in the surgical armamentarium, but the extent of their use is still evolving.
Methods: A review of the literature was undertaken using Medline. Articles describing the history and development of surgical robots were identified as were articles reporting data on applications.
Results: Several centers are currently using surgical robots and publishing data. Most of these early studies report that robotic surgery is feasible. There is, however, a paucity of data regarding costs and benefits of robotics versus conventional techniques.
Conclusions: Robotic surgery is still in its infancy and its niche has not yet been well defined. Its current practical uses are mostly confined to smaller surgical procedures.

Robotic surgery is a new and exciting emerging technology that is taking the surgical profession by storm. Up to this point, however, the race to acquire and incorporate this emerging technology has primarily been driven by the market. In addition, surgical robots have become the entry fee for centers wanting to be known for excellence in minimally invasive surgery despite the current lack of practical applications. Therefore, robotic devices seem to have more of a marketing role than a practical role. Whether or not robotic devices will grow into a more practical role remains to be seen.

Our goal in writing this review is to provide an objective evaluation of this technology and to touch on some of the subjects that manufacturers of robots do not readily disclose. In this article we discuss the development and evolution of robotic surgery, review current robotic systems, review the current data, discuss the current role of robotics in surgery, and finally we discuss the possible roles of robotic surgery in the future. It is our hope that by the end of this article the reader will be able to make a more informed decision about robotic surgery before "chasing the market."

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