It’s been a productive year in robotics, and medical innovation is leading the charge. As we move into 2017, we took a look back at some of the greatest advancements in robotic surgery this year. Whether it’s a step for surgeon education or a leap for patient safety, this progress is monumental for the growing surgical market. Check out our noted innovations and 2017 predictions below:
It may be tiny, but the origami robot could lead to a breakthrough in health technology, especially for stomach issues. The bot was designed and developed by researchers at MIT, the University of Sheffield, and the Tokyo Institute of Technology. To activate its functionality, a patient swallows a dissolvable pill containing the robot, which would then unfold once inside the stomach. From there, it can patch wounds or remove foreign objects from the stomach lining. The continuous development of small robots helps expand the range of motion and abilities for surgeons, making some tasks much more achievable than they would be without a nudge from robotics.
Flex Robotic System
While the idea of a snake-like robot entering through the mouth and down the throat may seem unsettling, it can actually make surgery faster, cheaper and less traumatic for patients. Head and neck surgeons are often faced with the challenges of narrow passageways and inaccessible spots for procedures, but the Flex® Robotic System can access those areas without breaking the jaw or causing any other damage requiring future repair. Once inside the throat, it functions like many other robotic instruments, allowing the surgeon to insert tools for cutting, grabbing and suturing.
We posted about SAW, or Single Actuator Wave-like Robot, recently, but with its adaptable motions and future plans, it deserves a spot on this list. The SAW was developed by a team from Ben-Gurion University of Negev in Israel, and it moves worm-like wave motion, allowing it to make its way through tight passageways and fluids. While the existing model is too large for use in surgeries currently, the team has plans to build smaller models that can function inside the human body.
Medtronic is advancing the world of robotics in healthcare with the world’s smallest pacemaker. The miniature-sized Micra Transcathether Pacing System (TPS) is inserted into the right ventricle through minimally invasive medical procedures. Physicians experience 48 percent less complications and 99 percent implant success rate when using the Micra as opposed to traditional pacemakers.
The Octobot’s arrival into robotics was groundbreaking in terms of the potential of soft robots, and it’s also the only autonomous robot on the list. Powered by a hydrogen peroxide chemical reaction, the Octobot can operate on its own, and its soft exterior poses less of a threat to human tissue than other internal robots.
Looking to 2017
We like to stay on the forefront of medical innovation, and we’re excited to see what 2017 brings to the industry. Based on what we’ve seen this year paired with the demands of surgeons, medical device companies and patients, here are some possible advancements we may see within the next year:
Turning the page on artificial intelligence
We’re reaching a new wave of medical robotics, and it’s driven by data. As with every other “smart” device, tools with the ability to collect data are much more useful than their non-AI counterpart. We may start to see more surgical robots gain the ability to gather data and learn from it, i.e. detecting patterns and using tracked paths in a procedure.
Discovering a sense of touch
There is a missing puzzle piece when it comes to robotic surgery: the ability to feel. When acting through robotic arms, the force exerted through the tools isn’t as easy to sense as it is with hand-held tools. A lack of touch can heighten the risk of human error in certain procedures. While there have already been developments in giving robotic surgeons a sense of touch, this will most likely be the new frontier for patient safety and surgeon experience.
Did we miss any of your favorite medical innovations this year? We’d love to hear from you. Contact us to discuss what’s next and see how we work toward implementing the latest and greatest technology in our training sessions and events. Check out our post from 2015’s innovations in robotics here.