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Top: DaVinci Robotic surgery system. Bottom Dr Tejas Patel performing coronary surgery remotely on a patient 32 kms away
 
 
From robotic surgery to remote telerobotics

Focus on AI and healthcare - 1
By Anand Parthasarathy
March 15 2019: Care giving  is hard work, tedious, boring and often emotionally draining. Most of it is done by  the lowest paid rung of medical workers.  And there is always a shortage of such  staff.  Which is why the healthcare assistive robot market  is seen as the most promising  application of  robots in medicine  --  and an estimated   $ 1.2 billion market  within 5 years. 
Walking robots  that cart medication and supplies across  hospitals   are a common sight in  some Japanese and American hospitals, replacing 'runners' and ward boys. 
But  what about a robot that  wakes up elderly patients greet them  with a human-like voice, help them out of bed and make sure they are clean  after  going to the toilet, then ensure they take their medicine?  The Robot Caregiver  is   triggering a gold rush-like   trend  in end-of-life care and will soon enable many such patients to remain in their own homes. Robots with  brand names like  Paro, Tugs and  Bestic  are available off the shelf,  to assist  the elderly.
Robotic surgery
But the biggest inroads of robots in healthcare may be in the area of surgery.   Robotic Surgery also known as Robot-assisted surgery, marries advanced computer technology with the skill and  experience of  a human surgeon. It is a method of  performing  surgery using very small tools attached to a robotic arm.  The surgeon controls and manipulates the arm from a  computer console.  The huge advantage is this: An electronic eye in the  robot arm sends back a high definition 3-D image, magnified 10 times, which the  surgeon can view on the computer screen: something not possible in conventional surgery.
The surgeon uses controls in the console to manipulate special surgical instruments that are smaller and more flexible than the human hand. The robot replicates the surgeon's hand movements,  and eliminates  human shortcomings like hand tremors.  The result: surgeons are able to perform the most complex procedures with a higher degree of precision, dexterity and control than ( pardon the pun!), 'humanly' possible.
The All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, led the robotic revolution in India. The first robotic surgery (of the prostate) was performed at  AIIMS in July 2006. The first   robotic  device to perform surgical procedures  was   the da Vinci Surgical System launched in 2000 -- and it remains the most widely used worldwide  --  there are some 60 installations in India alone. Robotic surgery  is increasingly used the for treatment of prostate, kidney and urinary bladder cancer   as well as for spine surgery.
Telerobotics
But in a country where such advanced technology tends to be concentrated in metros, can  robots  perform surgery remotely -- with the surgeon miles away from the patient? This  exciting possibility became reality -- a few months ago.
The CorPath  system  from US-based Corindus Vascular Robotics  was used to conduct the world's first-in-human robotic coronary surgery in India on  December 4 and 5, 2018. Five patients located at the Apex Heart Institute in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, underwent  the procedure from a distance of 32 km. It was performed by  Dr. Tejas Patel, Chairman and Chief Interventional Cardiologist of the Apex Heart Institute, from inside the Swaminarayan Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar.
Robotic surgery is a done thing today and the option is increasingly available in India's leading hospitals, public and private. Now after the  successful Ahmedabad trial, the Next Wave may well  be Tele Robotics -- robotics surgery from afar. 




    


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