Robot Surgeons May Get Upgraded

Tue, 01/17/2012 - 4:41am
John Roach

Surgical robots named Ravens are flocking to university labs around the U.S. where researchers will be encouraged to hack their software.

This reprogramming could accelerate innovation in surgical robotics, which is stifled due in part to a lock on the market held by the only company with a FDA-approved robot, according to Blake Hannaford, the director of the Biorobotics Laboratory at the University of Washington in Seattle.

That robot, da Vinci from Intuitive Surgical, has successfully performed more than 200,000 procedures — mostly hysterectomies and the removal of prostate glands — in hospitals around the world.

In these types of procedures, surgeons use the robots to make small incisions and wield tiny instruments that are difficult to handle with their own hands. The result is shortened recovery times and less post-operative pain, which increases the demand for robot-assisted surgery.

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