A team from Johns Hopkins University have demonstrated that their Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR), has performed four separate procedures to connect the intestinal tissue of porcine models. Results were compared with human and Robot Assisted Surgery (da Vinci), and found to be superior. The Johns Hopkins research article can be found in the January 26th issue of Science Robotics
From the abstract:
Here we describe an enhanced autonomous strategy for laparoscopic soft tissue surgery and demonstrate robotic laparoscopic small bowel anastomosis in phantom and in vivo intestinal tissues. This enhanced autonomous strategy allows the operator to select among autonomously generated surgical plans and the robot executes a wide range of tasks independently. We then use our enhanced autonomous strategy to perform in vivo autonomous robotic laparoscopic surgery for intestinal anastomosis on porcine models over a 1-week survival period. We compared the anastomosis quality criteria—including needle placement corrections, suture spacing, suture bite size, completion time, lumen patency, and leak pressure—of the developed autonomous system, manual laparoscopic surgery, and robot-assisted surgery (RAS).
The authors describe several Levels of Autonomy, up to fully autonomous surgery performed by the STAR robot. They further state:
"Although the system does require manual fine adjustment of the robot to correct positioning if a stitch is missed, more than 83% of the suturing task is completed autonomously..."
The robotic equipment used for these procedures was the KUKA LBR Med robot. Two were used, one with a suturing tool, the other with a dual-camera system on an endoscope. More information is available within their Science Robotics article. Another article about this is also available from the online news source TechXplore. To access the TechXplore article, please use this link
All of us at the Vattikuti Foundation celebrate this advance in robotic surgical science, and will follow developments as they happen.