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Input Devices Medicine Robotics Technology

Robots May Soon Put Surgery Into the Hands of Non-Surgeons (computerworld.com) 82

Lucas123 writes: By 2020, surgical robotics sales are expected to almost double to $6.4 billion, at the same time robots are becoming easier to use. One new robot is so easy to use that even med students can achieve proficiency with a few tries, according to Umamaheswar Duvvuri, director of head and neck surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The robot, a snake-like endoscope that can be directed into any shape through the relative orientations of its linkages, requires only one incision, reducing the number from several involved in typical laparoscopic procedures. Older, and more popular surgical robotic systems, such as the da Vinci Surgical System, are now being tested by physicians who are at controls more than 1,000 miles away. Probably a lot of the same misgivings that people have about autonomous cars apply here, too.
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Robots May Soon Put Surgery Into the Hands of Non-Surgeons

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  • Title is idiotic (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sjbe ( 173966 ) on Thursday March 03, 2016 @05:27PM (#51632243)

    Robots May Soon Put Surgery Into the Hands of Non-Surgeons

    No it won't. No way, no how. Not in my lifetime. The liability concerns alone mean it won't happen. Yes the technology is getting better but that's not remotely the same thing as letting non-surgeons cut people.

    One new robot is so easy to use that even med students can achieve proficiency with a few tries, according to Umamaheswar Duvvuri, director of head and neck surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

    Wow, smart people training to be surgeons get proficient at basic surgery quickly. How astonishing.... [/sarcasm]

    • Even the most basic procedures can have unexpected consequences. Human bodies are poorly standardized.

      What will happen is that surgery becomes easier for surgeons.

      But they will NEVER let a ROBOT (and this is NOT a robot) perform surgery.

      • NEVER is a long time, I would say for sure that you are wrong in saying that. I can see robotic surgeons like in Star Wars eventually happening with the increases in computing power and eventual pseudo-intelligent robots.

        • by OhPlz ( 168413 )

          "Please state the nature of your medical emergency."

          • You make a good point, I tried to think of Star Trek examples as well, and totally forgot about him.

          • "Please state the nature of your medical emergency."

            "All of our robots are busy helping other emergency patients. Please wait for the next available robot. Your health is very important to us!"

            • "All of our robots are busy helping other emergency patients. Please wait for the next available robot. Your health is very important to us!"

              And this differs from the human-operated Emergency Department exactly how?

      • by Longjmp ( 632577 )
        Even the most basic roads can have unexpected obstacles. Roads are poorly standardized.

        What will happen is that driving becomes easier for humans.

        But they will NEVER let a ROBOT (and this IS a robot) drive autonomously on roads.

        You were saying?
        It won't happen soon or as fast as autonomous cars, but I think it will happen.
        • Even the most basic roads can have unexpected obstacles.
          Roads are poorly standardized.
          What will happen is that driving becomes easier for humans.
          But they will NEVER let a ROBOT (and this IS a robot) drive autonomously on roads.

          Roads are full of obstacles, usually fall-down drunks.
          Drunks and other poorly standardized humans design roads.
          In fact, this is the leading cause of unstandardized roads.
          Efforts to standardize humans are under way. Trump knows this and doesn't care.
          Robots know this but seldom admit it from fear of malpractice suits.
          Though with special tailoring a robot looks dandy in a suit.
          Like Waldo, who is also a robot, because most 21st century robots are actually waldoes. It's true.
          Every time we hear about some advance

      • Even the most basic procedures can have unexpected consequences. Human bodies are poorly standardized.

        People may be better at improvising when faced with unexpected events, but if robots outperform humans on the other tasks, they may still have a better overall score.

      • Now the "robots" are really just waldoes - totally controlled by an operator (a skilled surgeon, but still "operator" of the tool, no more and no less than the operator of a backhoe or crane). Next they will be robots, guided and monitored by an operator (perhaps a less skilled or less experienced surgeon). Then they will be good enough for remote locations, bringing emergency care to hospital-less places, with telepresence oversight. And maybe emergency or combat locations. Eventually they'll be good e
    • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

      Yes the technology is getting better but that's not remotely the same thing as letting non-surgeons cut people.

      And not too long ago, you needed to be a doctor to give out doctorly advice, write prescriptions, etc. Now LPN and PAs do it for routine tasks under the guidance of doctors.

      I don't see trained surgeons being replaced by non-surgeons with robots for major medical procedures. But I could see trained medical professionals who may not be full fledged surgeons doing routine procedures.

      • And not too long ago, you needed to be a doctor to give out doctorly advice, write prescriptions, etc. Now LPN and PAs do it for routine tasks under the guidance of doctors.

        The key words there are "under the guidance of doctors". It's no different than a medical student being allowed to do a procedure under the supervision of an attending. Did you know that much of the surgery done in teaching hospitals is done by less qualified staff? The surgeon is required to be present for the key parts of the procedure but once that is done the closing up is done by support staff. This is nothing new.

        But I could see trained medical professionals who may not be full fledged surgeons doing routine procedures.

        Under the supervision of a surgeon. The value of a surgeon isn't in the routine thin

    • No it won't. No way, no how. Not in my lifetime. The liability concerns alone mean it won't happen. Yes the technology is getting better but that's not remotely the same thing as letting non-surgeons cut people.

      If it allows surgeries to be done with less skilled labor (read cheaper), there will come a time sooner rather than later where the only surgery that's covered by insurance will be performed by machine. Specialists [wikipedia.org] will all eventually all be replaced by robots because they are cheaper.

      • It doesn't matter. Some people will accept anything if they are assured that they will get the Low Price Always [TM].

    • The same reason we pay attorneys to do low level doc review instead of paralegals. You can't get malpractice insurance on the paralegals.

    • The liability concerns alone mean it won't happen.

      Corporate medicine won't have any problem getting you to sign a user agreement that waives your rights to claim liability and sends all disputes to arbitration instead of a courthouse.

      A lot of people haven't noticed but we're losing our rights as consumers as fast as we're losing other rights. Maybe faster.

    • by mspohr ( 589790 )

      In some countries, surgeons are trained in a separate course from physicians. The surgeons focus on surgery skills (and the physiology, pharmacology, etc. necessary during surgery) and they don't train for the far broader set of skills required for differential diagnosis and management of disease. This results in better surgeons who don't spend a lot of time learning skills they will never use.
      You can train people in surgery skills fairly quickly.
      I am licensed as a "Physician and Surgeon" (California) which

    • Maybe not ideally, but what if there's no other choice? Sure if you need an appendectamy in New York City, you have no shortage of skilled surgeons, but what if your appendix bursts in a small village in Alaska, in the middle of winter, or you take a bullet on the battlefield with no evac in site.

      Situations like this are where autosurgeons will make inroads.

      • Maybe not ideally, but what if there's no other choice? Sure if you need an appendectamy in New York City, you have no shortage of skilled surgeons, but what if your appendix bursts in a small village in Alaska, in the middle of winter, or you take a bullet on the battlefield with no evac in site.

        Situations like this are where autosurgeons will make inroads.

        All the battlefields or the remote villages in Alaska will need is the robot just sitting there, waiting for the appendectomy. Hell my remote village had so many of them, we had to scrap half of them - couldn't get in the garage they were stored in any more.

        Think people, these exceptionally expensive machines are quite expensive. And if they are going to fly ot a more populated place, there might just be a hoomin there to operate.

      • Maybe not ideally, but what if there's no other choice?

        What do you mean "no other choice"? There is NO choice. There are no autonomous robots that can replace people for surgery and no reasonable likelihood we will see one in the next 30 years. It's science fiction and will remain so for a long time to come.

        As for remote operation, the economics of it make it impossible even if the technology were currently feasible (which it isn't). You seriously think there is going to be a market for hugely expensive remote surgery devices in places were about 3 people l

    • Not in my lifetime.

      Unless you plan on dying sometime soon, it will. It isn't? 12 years ago self driving cars were a pipe dream. Now they're here.

      Yes the technology is getting better but that's not remotely the same thing as letting non-surgeons cut people.

      The number of luddites on Slashdot amazes me for a side for nerds. Pick and place machines are populating PCBs faster and with better accuracy than any human ever could. They've gotten to the point where they're using feed forward non-linear control to correct for vibrations in the floor. With a decent accelerometer a robotic surgeon could perform surgery on a boat in the middle of a

      • Unless you plan on dying sometime soon, it will. It isn't? 12 years ago self driving cars were a pipe dream. Now they're here.

        Not even remotely a relevant comparison. First off self driving vehicles have been around for a LOT longer than 12 years. We've had vehicles (usually military) that could navigate autonomously for decades. Think cruise missiles and autopilot on airplanes. We're just now getting to the point where we can put such technologies into cars (a harder problem) and even then we're still a fair ways off from hands off operation in a car you can buy from a dealer for daily use. (no matter what Elon Musk promises

    • The liability concerns alone mean it won't happen.

      If you can show that the robot causes fewer incidents than people, someone will be willing to provide liability insurance. At a lower premium even.

  • Wrong (Score:4, Insightful)

    by killkillkill ( 884238 ) on Thursday March 03, 2016 @05:28PM (#51632249)
    It doesn't allow non-surgeons to perform surgery. It lowers the skill level to be a surgeon.
    • It doesn't allow non-surgeons to perform surgery. It lowers the skill level to be a surgeon.

      I can see more H-1B visa applications on the way.

      • by zlives ( 2009072 )

        don't need visa or a degree to perform these surgeries, thank you drive through.
        also if my last online conference call experience is of any relevance... i for one will still be wanting a real doctor in real life.

        • "The robot arm has resected the bowel, why isn't it staunching the bleeding?"

          "Looks like a backhoe just took out the fibre!"

          "Is there a doctor around here?"

  • may? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Thursday March 03, 2016 @05:29PM (#51632257)
    Lasik already does
  • A robot arm won't travel another 100 feet over a cliff after hitting the the stop button, or if it bumps into something unexpected.

  • by DutchUncle ( 826473 ) on Thursday March 03, 2016 @05:39PM (#51632343)
    A sequel (sort of ) to "The Marching Morons". An automated medical kit is time-traveled back to the current (1950s) time, and is found by a former doctor, now a bum after being de-licensed for malpractice due to alcoholism. Thinking the novelty and improvement of the tools is improvement in medical technology that he missed, he uses the power for good in an emergency, and starts turning his life around. Someone else, though, notices a future date on something in the kit, and eventually steals and misuses it. The safety mechanisms notice this . . . ((Also adapted for ... Twilight Zone? some other 1950s show?))
    • Night Gallery [tv.com]

      Dated, but still one of my favorite episodes.
    • A sequel (sort of ) to "The Marching Morons".

      The prequel, actually. The morons btw get their revenge, courtesy of Douglas Adams.

      A similar plot appears in the 1980 novel The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. The Golgafrinchans convince "the most useless third" of their population to get on a spaceship and leave their home planet; unfortunately, since the spaceship contains all the telephone sanitizers, the rest of the planet's population is killed by a contagious disease contracted from a dirty telephone. The "useless" Golgafrinchans eventually populate the Earth.

      The Marching Morons [wikipedia.org]

  • by ilsaloving ( 1534307 ) on Thursday March 03, 2016 @05:39PM (#51632349)

    The surgical equivalent of Visual Basic developers.

    Some things are just plain hard, and require talent, training and skill to perform. The last think anyone needs is people who have only a barely passing knowledge of surgery to be anywhere near an operating table.

  • The system does nothing autonomously. I've also read that it takes a lot of training to learn it well.

    • by Gravis Zero ( 934156 ) on Thursday March 03, 2016 @06:53PM (#51632945)

      The system does nothing autonomously.

      correct, it doesn't do anything autonomously but it does allow you to choose what actions you would like it to take. for example, microsutures are a pain in the ass because they take forever but the da Vinci Surgical System allows you to start making microsutures and then allows you to choose to repeat the task so that you can do thousands of microsutures in several minutes rather than hours.

      it certainly is a robot. it requires you to tell it what to do but then don't all robots?

  • All I can think of when watching that video is how sweet the control software must be for that thing. That and "step up on the probe-u-lator".

  • by dbc ( 135354 ) on Thursday March 03, 2016 @05:52PM (#51632473)

    The Da Vinci is a remotely operated laproscopy tool, not an autonomous machine. Remote usually means "across the room". I got to play with one for about 30 minutes. Placing little tiny rubber bands on tiny latex cones. It takes a lot of practice. It would take less time to learn than traditional laproscopy, but still a lot of training -- after you are already a board-certified surgeon. What it does is give the surgeon much finer control and better viewing. The camera inside the surgery zone is awesome. The surgeon can control the motion multiplier, so 5 inches on his controls is 1/2 inch inside the patient.

    But here is what sells Da Vincis: The tremor filter. Everyone develops micro-tremors as they age. This is usually what ends the career of laproscopic surgeons. The Da Vince extends the career of expert laproscopic surgeons by 8 to 10 years. Do the math -- spending a million dollars on a Da Vinci is an absolute no-brainer for all involved.

  • As of now, these systems are little than remote manipulator with some macro and filtering. The filtering is to reduce human twitches and the macros are simple "bend left, push then twist" type replay of recorded actions that athletes would call muscle memory. Deciding if, what or where to cut is not on the horizon for robots. The greatest advantage to robots is letting the surgeon sit in a low fatigue chair and make a tiny incision the the business end of the machine goes into leaving minimal damage to g
  • by frnic ( 98517 ) on Thursday March 03, 2016 @06:23PM (#51632733)

    Where any attempt to advance technology will be met with skepticism and ridicule by people that know little or nothing about what they are talking about.

  • by sls1j ( 580823 ) on Thursday March 03, 2016 @06:23PM (#51632737) Homepage
    " The robot, a snake-like endoscope that can be directed into any shape through the relative orientations of its linkages, requires only one incision" Sounds like the monologue from a super villain just before inserting a device of torture into the hero.
  • This will be a boon to those of us who like Do-It-Yourself brain surgery hacks... :)

  • There are small communities of less than 1000 people once you get north of the US border. It's fairly difficult for them to get doctors. Some of them might be lucky to get skilled Nurse Practitioners.

    For places like these, along power lines where you can deliver Gigabit internet, having a robot surgeon like this might be a really good idea if the nearest doctor is two hours away if the road was open but it just snowed 3 meters and there are at least five avalanches along that road that won't be cleared for

  • I have a family member who is a doctor and has studied surgery (and no doubt done any number of surgeries in their time) and there is no way I would trust anyone without the proper qualifications to perform anything that involves cutting people open.

  • ...

    If bowel_is_nicked
    { //Throw exception: I can't tell if the colon is perforated because I have no nose because I am a machine!
    }

    The problem is: we know life better than machines.

    • This isn't a permanent prohibition. It is a use case, and a spec, for additional sensors that we don't have just yet. I'll bet perfume and skin-care companies would also like to have scent sensors.
  • This method has not been evaluated by the FDA.

  • If decided, I will have a cancerous tumor removed from the base of my tongue. They will use a robot for this task. The Lymph nodes will be removed by a sentient sack of blood and bacteria. I may just have poison and radiation. My fabulousness will shine through no matter what. GRIN My radiation mask can be seen at my flickr account linked below

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