back to article More expensive, takes longer than usual, not particularly brilliant. Yes, it's your robot surgeon

Robot-assisted surgery costs more time and money than traditional methods, but isn't more effective, for certain types of operations. Laparoscopic surgery, which involves one or more small incisions suited to a laparoscope rather than large cut, tends to preferable when it's an option because it's minimally invasive. For …

  1. Trevor_Pott Gold badge

    While the benefits of current robot-assisted surgery is somewhat questionable, this doesn't mean surgery robots are useless...or at least that they will remain so. Consider, for example, this prototype.

    This prototype robot uses machine vision - amongst other modern techniques - to create a (mostly) autonomous surgery bot that is actually better than humans. Yes, it has some bugs, but it's an early prototype. I expect to see some rapid enhancement in this area.

  2. Elmer Phud

    Other examples?

    Are any other operation costs and times available for comparison?

    Examples seem very limited in number.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Other examples?

      It does say it is more useful and provides better outcomes in other areas.

      So it's a bit of those..Oh look it's no good, it terrible, stop don't look behind the curtain, focus back on me!.

      However it does go to prove a point of not using machines just for the sake of it. Bit like people that spend 15 minutes setting up a Mitre saw to do a single cut.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Other examples?

        I grew up knowing a mitre saw as a hand operated saw with a guiding mechanism to keep the blade straight. The simplest version of a mitre saw would be a tenon saw with a wooden mitre block.

        I was a bit puzzled the first time I saw a circular saw mounted on a jig, labelled as a mitre saw. It was at that point that I realised that "Tool Time" was actually serious, and any inherent comedy was purely accidental.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Other examples?


      A cheap and cheerful cheeky robot finger.

  3. Richard Jones 1

    Times Not Aligining

    There was a difference in the time lines. Outcomes and cost were for 2003~2015, yet research focus has sharply increased in the last five years. So any gain from the research on robots should be expected to appear from about now going forward. Also as others have said, focusing on just two types of procedures may limit data volumes but could hide other issues affecting other types of procedure, good and bad. I am being lead to believe that many eye operations, especially cataract are bing robot assisted if not actually robot led with rapid throughput. If the robots are crap why use them for such surgery?

    Footnote I have an upcoming possible interest in this one.

    1. Jimmy2Cows Silver badge

      @Richard Jones 1: ...are bing robot assisted...

      For $deity's sake don't get Bing involved in this. End up performing eye surgery on someone's arse.

      1. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

        "End up performing eye surgery on someone's arse."

        And why not? I hear the new Oculanus 3000©®™ can correct a shitty outlook on life!

  4. Nolveys

    "Realizing the benefits of AI is far from automatic,"

    ...until it is automated, by using AI.

  5. jake Silver badge

    Personally ...

    ... I know far to much about programming and mechanical engineering to trust the pair of them in this particular scenario. Today, anyway. Tomorrow? That's another day, which strangely enough never gets here.

  6. abedarts

    Not good enough yet, but

    Isn't that how science and technology progresses, early versions are not great but incremental improvements really add up as the years pass. My first desktop computer wasn't that good either, but now look at them... well perhaps that wasn't the best example, but you know what I mean.

  7. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Now imagine if you read: US UAW study "robots make no improvements in car mfg.

    Stay with humans. "

    Who would believe it? People would assume it was self serving CYA bu***hit to protect their jobs.

    This might become the new Inhaber Report* . A model of carefully selected facts and baselines that will "prove" a conclusion.

    TBH I don't think true robot surgeons will be developed in the US, or any G7 nation. I believe that will happen where there is a much more pressing need for health care and people start doing the math on the real costs. Spend 7 years and train a (maybe) an adequate surgeon or spend 7 years and build something that you can produce in as many units as you need, while expanding your industrial base in ways that can be used in many other parts of the economy?

    *Not exactly the Canadian nuclear industries finest hour.

    1. jake Silver badge

      Re: Now imagine if you read: US UAW study "robots make no improvements in car mfg.

      John, there are several rather large differences between "screw lug nuts on" and "remove melanoma". Of course robots are better than humans at the former. But the later? Not so much.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Now imagine if you read: US UAW study "robots make no improvements in car mfg.

        Actually, humans get to screw the lug nuts on whilst robots do the tricky stuff like welding.

  8. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Sounds like someone I know ...

    "More expensive, takes longer than usual, not particularly brilliant." - this sound like every boss I've ever worked for in my life.

  9. Korev Silver badge

    The average cost of the hospital stay was about $2,678 more per patient when a robot was involved, costs the researchers attributed to operating room and supply charges.

    Which in some places will be seen as an advantage by the hospital...

  10. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Is there a selection bias? A surgeon could opt to only use mechanical assistance in difficult cases where an extended operation might be more likely.

    1. Fat-Boy-R-Dee

      Great Question!

      But doubtful. But a great way to slice/dice the data from another angle (pun? intended), agreed.

      Surgeons, like everybody else, tend to do their tasks assembly-line fashion ... they either use a particular bot every time (for a particular procedure) or don't use it every time. Robots are a great tool for what they were designed to do - work relatively slowly, very precisely, and within a very small field. For gross (no pun intended) procedures like a nephrectomy, they really don't bring a lot to the table (pun intended).

      Citation: did a lot of consulting work with CV (heart) surgeon practice groups (clinics) a few years ago. This was a more than occasional topic of discussion. I also fully realize the plural of anecdote is not data.

  11. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    Obvious question is how fast, and accurately, do surgeons hands move IRL?

    Or is the UI too clumsy?

    On a more subtle note are orthopedic surgeons more muscly than say opthalmic surgeons? Watching one do a hip replacement looks more like furniture moving combined with a bit cabinet making (with a rasp) than anything else to me.

    Just because surgeons don't come in design optimized for a particular class of surgery does not mean robot designers need to follow the same path.

  12. DaVinciFan

    Robotic assisted surgery does not usually involve AI. I had the procedure done with a DaVinci SI for thoracic surgery. I was assured that the robot was incapable of independent movement. It only amplified the movements and vision of the surgeon. I was discharged from hospital on the second day post op and able to discontinue pain medication as well. There were no restrictions on post op physical activity plus the incisions were minimal compared to what I would have had done in the usual procedure. My recovery took two weeks and not several months. My gratitude for minimally invasive surgery.

  13. Ravi Shanghavi Ottawa


    Ok so maybe, robots in many cases are not yet as efficient as humans. (we're assuming the author is correct) what the same author doesn't fairly point out, is that robots have the opportunity to improve. As in there can be a 100x increase in productivity with AI and robotics, the human doctor will never get 10x faster or 100x faster at the same procedure.

    Yes this is a new field, no.. It shouldn't be abandoned. I don't comment often, but that authors study just seemed narrow minded.

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