A surgical operation is usually considered the last resort in medical treatment. Not every operation achieves its goal, and some may cause more harm than good – despite every good intention and skill on the part of the care-giving team.
Fortunately, three recent innovations in the field of medicine may improve the odds for success in the operating room.
#1 The Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR)
The Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR) operates on the soft tissues of the intestines. Traditionally, human doctors direct these delicate surgeries, but this new robotic device works independently of human supervision.
Researchers at The Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. introduced their solution to this problem less than a year ago, a STAR performer. But what is it?
STAR is a lightweight robotic arm built to lean over a surgery table with a suturing tool attached at its end. Before any procedure, human doctors pre-program STAR to the exact specifications needed to work on a specific individual.
STAR robotic surgery
Star has already been tested on pigs with a 60% success rate when functioning completely on their own, and the remaining 40% of test cases required only minor adjustments during the surgery. The goal is 100% independence from human assistance.
IEEE Spectrum says STAR “makes more precise cuts than expert surgeons, and damages less of the surrounding flesh.”
How the general public reacts to completely robotic surgeries remains to be seen. Would you undergo an operation where no human hand controlled the scalpel?
#2 Transplant Organ “Warm Perfusion” Transportation
Since the first kidney transplant in 1954, donor organs, removed from recently-deceased bodies, have been taken to their waiting recipients in a regular ice cooler. The cold preserves the delicate organ tissue, but time is of the essence. The Cleveland Clinic says, in regards to cardiac transplants:
“The excised heart, placed in a plastic bag and packed in a store-bought picnic cooler filled with pounds of ice, has to be transplanted within 240 minutes to achieve the best results.”
Harvested organs start to deteriorate immediately. Even packed in ice, after a certain amount of time they are no longer viable. An NBC News report informs us:
“Kidneys can last up to 36 hours on ice, but hearts and lungs can only be kept out of the body for about four to six hours.”
Warm perfusion improves donor organ viability. Rather than cut off the oxygen supply completely, the organ is put into a box and remains functional during the race to the waiting operating room team. Pumping blood provides life-critical oxygen to the severed organ, helping to sustain it. Lungs are kept breathing and hearts are kept beating from the beginning to the end of this journey.
“Lung in a box” receives warm perfusion en route to recipient
(Photo: MediComm Consultants – YouTube.com)
This game-changing innovation has already been approved for use in Europe. Warm perfusion devices are currently under review by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), and one for lungs has already been approved in the US. Reviewers are hot for warm perfusion!
A very nifty gadget has come out of Silicon Valley to help surgeons perform gallbladder removal surgery. Levita Magnetics has received FDA approval for their new system. Designed to be very simple, it uses magnets attached to the end of an adjustable rod to pull out (retract) and move the gallbladder into a position requiring the fewest incisions.
In a traditional gallbladder surgery, the physician cuts open a “porthole” in the abdominal wall. The Levita Magnetic Surgical System allows for repositioning without this extra damage.
According to Levita Magnetics, this is just the beginning:
“Gallbladder surgery is the simplest abdominal surgery and one of the most common. But we see many other opportunities to eventually expand to thorax, bariatric, colorectal, and urological and gynecological surgeries.”
In the case of life-preserving surgeries, less is more. Cutting back the cutting is a good thing.
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Thanks to exciting new technologies like these three, surgical success is on the uptick. Standing on the forefront of such impressive medical advances, one can only wonder: what won’t they think of next?