|Initially a product of DARPA research in the 1980s, surgical robots were developed, with the goal of developing a system to perform battlefield surgery remotely, thus preserving valuable surgeon?s lives.
Even now, over two decades later, that goal of battlefield robots is still years away. However, the DaVinci system, a direct descendant of that research, first came into being in 1999, for use in civilian hospitals.
The da Vinci System is called "da Vinci" because Leonardo da Vinci invented the first robot Leonardo also used unparalleled anatomical accuracy and three-dimensional details to bring his masterpieces to life; thus the robot was named after him.
First cleared by the American FDA in 2000, the DaVinci surgical robot is designed to enable minimally invasive, complex surgery.
In the following years, the FDA has cleared it for thoracoscopic (chest) surgery, cardiac procedures and urologic and gynecologic procedures. Elsewhere in the world, this system is being put to ever more complex procedures, wherever minimal scarring, swifter operations and shorter hospital stays are desired.
This surgical robotic system is a considerable improvement over conventional laparoscopy, in which the surgeon operates while standing, using hand-held, long-shafted instruments, which have no wrists. With conventional laparoscopy, the surgeon must look up and away from the instruments, to a nearby video monitor in two dimensions (one camera) to see an image of the target anatomy. The surgeon must also rely on their patient-side assistant to position the camera correctly
In contrast, the surgical robot allows the surgeon to operate from a comfortable, seated position at the console, with eyes and hands positioned in line with the instruments. To move the instruments or to reposition the camera, the surgeon simply moves their hands and the instruments and two-lens camera flow as if part of the surgeon. The instrument wrists allow the instruments to bend once in the patient, reducing the need to open new incisions for difficult areas.
By providing surgeons with visualisation from twin cameras, 3D pictures are created, with each of the surgeon?s eyes getting a slightly different image, allowing depth to be determined easily. The dexterity and greater precision combined with the ergonomic comfort of operating from a seated position means that more surgeons can perform complex minimally invasive procedures.
The da Vinci Surgical System is not autonomous, and whilst the technology can operate via telepresence ? remote surgery ? currently, Intuitive Surgical Inc., the company who manufacture it, have no plans to integrate that capability into their models as that is not ?company focus?. However, there is absolutely nothing to stop this technology being applied to the models, beyond company politics.
Intuitive Surgical Inc. is presently looking into telesurgery, but only for training, not in the interest of saving surgeons from shuttling across the world. They see telesurgery as a tools that may allow surgeons to get up to speed in robotic-assisted surgery only, not actually perform it.
Ironically, Da Vinci is perfectly suited for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency?s Defense Sciences project to develop robotic technology for use on the battlefield. However, the company simply has no plans to pursue that ? this being the main reason why the DARPA project is still years from completion.
The Da Vinci Surgical Console
The DaVinci surgical system consists of two parts; the patient-side trolley that actually operates on the patient, and the control console the surgeon uses.
The patient-side trolley is free-standing, and easily wheels into position, alongside the patient. Close to six feet in height, this robotic surgeon has three arms, each of which have complete freedom of movement, and a ?wrist? that moves exactly the same as a human?s. The tools on each arm are completely interchangeable, and each only needs a 2cm cut in the tissue to operate inside the body.
Each of the three EndoWrist arms is quite complex, and designed to mimic the human arm, whilst still maintaining very high precision. The da Vinci Surgical System is intuitive. The instruments are designed to be able to mimic the movements of the surgeon?s hands and wrists, giving them excellent flexibility and control when operating on delicate tissue; when the surgeon moves the controls to the right, the da Vinci System?s instruments move to the right, giving natural hand-eye co-ordination.
The Da Vinci Surgical Cart
Both the console, and the endoscopic probe used by Da Vinci are stereoscopic. The vision system gives the surgeon a 3-D, 10 times magnified view of the operating field, which provides an excellent view of delicate tissue and organs.
A slightly differing angle is given to each eye, enabling true 3D to flow exactly as it would if the surgeon were looking naturally at the inside of the body, without any intermediary.