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Robots For Surgery Aren’t Ready For Widespread Use

Mon, 06/25/2012 - 5:29am

I recently had the opportunity to try out a surgical robot, a medical device that has excited doctors, patients and hospital marketing departments. During the demonstration, I was able to precisely manipulate the robotic arms using joysticks. The experience felt right out of a Hollywood movie, as I was able to view the operating field with impeccable clarity using a sophisticated 3-D camera. As a primary care doctor who rarely uses medical devices, I was certainly impressed.

But the implications of robotic surgery go far beyond any video game or science fiction movie. We have yet to see any real data that suggest robotic surgery helps patients more than traditional surgery. What’s more certain is that expensive new high-tech robotic devices will contribute to the nation’s soaring health costs.

Robotic surgery is mostly used now for prostate surgery in men and hysterectomies in women, though it can be employed in other operations, including heart procedures or surgery in sensitive head and neck areas.

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