Robot Performed Surgery on Pig Without Human Intervention

Photo: Collected

On a pig, a robot successfully performed autonomous abdominal surgery. The breakthrough was published in Science Daily News on Wednesday by researchers at Johns Hopkins University. For years, the team has been programming its Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR), which completed semi-autonomous laparoscopic surgery in 2018. This is the first time, however, that the robot has done such a surgery without the assistance of a human.

Even for human doctors, laparoscopic surgery is difficult because it aims to reconnect intestines without making large incisions in the stomach. The robot was rejoining the ends of a pig’s intestines in this case.

The team improved the suturing instruments and refined STAR’s vision system after executing a comparable surgery in 2016, but with a larger incision and human assistance, to offer it with better surgical field visualizations.

Laparoscopic surgery on soft tissue systems is particularly difficult because it necessitates rapid modifications in the event that something moves or the surgeon faces an unforeseen obstacle.

Robotic surgery is already ubiquitous around the world, with over 644,000 robotics-assisted procedures performed in 2017, according to one estimate. However, these are all assisted surgeries. The Da Vinci robot does not require the assistance of a human surgeon, which is a genuinely significant achievement in the industry.

“What makes the STAR unique is that it is the first robotic system can plan, modify, and execute a soft tissue surgical plan with minimum human interaction,” said senior author Axel Krieger, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Johns Hopkins Whiting School of Engineering.

The benefit of STAR is not only its adaptability, but also the accuracy and repeatability that robotics provides. STAR is built to ensure that you don’t miss a suture or make a mistake. According to Krieger, the robot outperformed humans executing the identical technique.

In terms of what the future of autonomous robot surgery would entail, Krieger told The A. James Clack School of Engineering in 2018 that he could see a robot performing trauma surgery on the battlefield. Krieger and his crew took a giant step toward that ambition this week.

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