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Surgery: Relying on Robots

Armen Hareyan's picture

Robots and Surgery

Six years ago robotic surgery jumped from the pages of science fiction books into the operating room. Although debate still continues about its cost effectiveness, Myriam Curet, MD, associate professor of surgery, predicts that in 2006 you can expect to see it sink new roots and extend into new territory.

"Robotic surgery is a tool looking for applications," said Curet, who pioneered an effective way to use the technology for gastric bypasses.

In 2005, more than 20 percent of U.S. prostatectomies were done with a robot. This year, expect that figure to double.

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Robotic surgery should also gain new ground in advanced laparoscopic procedures, along with esophageal, pancreatic, colon and rectal surgeries, Curet said.

Since Intuitive Surgical's da Vinci system was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in July 2000 (the only robotic system to get FDA approval) about 350 of the units have been purchased at about $1.3 million each.

The system places the surgeon in front of a console where he or she uses knobs to maneuver tiny surgical instruments with cameras attached to adjustable robotic arms.

It has been used in a variety of surgeries from kidney transplants to hysterectomies. About 36,600 robotic surgeries were done in 2005, up nearly 50 percent from 2004. Analysts predict the figure will grow at a similar rate in the coming months.

From a forecast from members of Stanford University School of Medicine about events and developments to watch in the coming months.