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Battle Ready - Why The Future Of Robotic Surgery Depends On Present Actions

Fri, 11/06/2009 - 6:59am
Jeff Reinke, editorial director
There are a number of reasons to be excited about the development of new technologies relative to surgical robotics. Whether your enthusiasm stems from how their minimally invasive nature allows for shorter procedures, or the way in which quicker recovery times translate to lower long-term costs for both the hospital and patient, the impact of this technology is significant and wide-reaching.

There are a number of reasons to be excited about the development of new technologies relative to surgical robotics. Whether your enthusiasm stems from how their minimally invasive nature allows for shorter procedures, or the way in which quicker recovery times translate to lower long-term costs for both the hospital and patient, the impact of this technology is significant and wide-reaching.

However, going a step further, the wider-spread adoption of robotic surgeries could have an awe-inspiring impact on the public as a whole – and one that transcends the casual mention on prime time television dramas. In looking to better understand the nature of robotic surgeries, their applications and potential, I came across some posts that discussed how these technologies could eventually be advanced in helping battlefield medics care for wounded soldiers.

As a former infantry instructor I imagined how this could impact our nation’s defense on so many levels. There’s the obvious connection to saved lives, but what about the impact that immediate surgical attention from specialists far removed from the sounds and stresses of the battlefield could offer in sparing our brave soldiers from some of the life-altering injuries (although that doesn’t seem like a strong enough identifier) which our country’s best often endure as they sacrifice life and limb.

The ability to avoid amputations or more quickly address spinal and head wounds not only means a healthier fighting force, but one that can go back home and be the same type of husband, mother, son or daughter that they were previously. Casualty rates could be reduced and fewer loved ones would have to pay the ultimate price for the freedoms we enjoy each day.

From a colder, operational perspective, this also means that troop counts would not need to be reinforced as frequently in replacing the fallen. Additionally, recovery times could be expedited, as treatment for munitions-based casualties could be potentially addressed on-site, without the need for extraction to a field hospital. All of these elements not only positively impact the personal loss of war, but the hard financial costs of it as well.

The caveat here is that in order to progress to the point where we can develop portable daVinci systems that can be stowed in a ruck sack and transport wireless communication signals over hundreds of miles and through mountainous terrain or precipitation-laden jungles, we need to see widerspread integration of such technologies in the hospitals of cities, suburbs and rural communities that reside far away from the rigors and tragedies of the battlefield.

That’s part of the challenge being laid at the feet of hospital administrators and surgeons throughout the medical community today. In order for the next step to be taken, more need to take an initial step in championing the cause of this technology. Granted, I’m speaking about million-dollar systems during a time of cost cuts and potentially radical system overhaul, but these factors cannot sway a determined approach to advancing this and other types of medical technology. The steps we take today will lay the foundation for where we go tomorrow.

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