Written By: John Preer
Humans are constantly innovating, evolving and improving upon previous models. The role robotics plays in the field of surgery has been a touchy subject for a while. Questions of ethics and human capability have been the fodder for scholarly debates about the feasibility of robot surgeons.
The da Vinci surgical system seems to have found just the right balance of mechanical dexterity and human consciousness.
The South Georgia Medical Center has been taking advantage of this cutting-edge technology for little over four years. “The proposal was submitted the previous year and we began using the da Vinci SI model in April of 2010,” said medical specialist Meghan Schunhoff.
On [insert date] SGMC hosted a meet the robot demonstration in the front lobby. Visitors were given the opportunity to operate the da Vinci XI model to perform simulated procedures on an artificial abdomen-like model. The system utilizes a combination of finely tuned machines to perform minimally invasive surgeries for conditions ranging from hysterectomy to uterine fibrosis.
“We use the da Vinci machine everyday here for a range of laparoscopic procedures,” said Precious Kelly, surgeon tech coordinator.
In order for the machine to operate a trained surgeon must physically control the robotic arms with the assistance of a team of surgeon tech coordinators. The surgeon uses a system of joysticks and foot pedals to control the four arms and camera from an operating console.
This multi-faceted design allows for a detailed system of checks and balances to minimize the chances for accidents or malfunctions.
Certain controls are fitted with a device similar to a dead man’s switch that locks down the machine if a live person isn’t presently handling it.
For patients needing surgeries that require large incisions and long recovery periods like an abdominal hysterectomy, the da Vinci system could offer some a safer alternative. In stark contrast to the traditional surgical method, the da Vinci robot performs the same procedure using a few small incisions that require a much shorter recovery time. This speedy recovery lessens this risk of other complications developing and allows the patient to get back to their lives much quicker.
Those still concerned about the safety features can rest assured. Emergency fail-safe buttons are stationed all around the machine that immediately eject all of the instruments installed in the robotic arms and shuts the entire system down. Perhaps the most interesting component of the system is the four robotic arms.
The arms are designed to give the surgeon an extra dimension of dexterity and precision. Each arm can have a different tool installed and the status of those instruments is relayed in real time to the over-head touch screen display. High definition cameras provide the technicians and surgeons with detailed three-dimensional feed throughout the procedure.
This machine is effective only with the help of human surgeons. So in a way the da Vinci surgical system, no matter how complex, is just another tool at the surgeon’s disposal—an innovation to traditional medicine that blends modern robotic precision and patient-friendly methods.