Most people might think that robotic surgery is an essential part of a future, technology-based style of healthcare. However there is a group of people who know better, because they have already undergone robotic sugery. Robotic surgery has actually been in use for almost ten years by now. And the results are impressive! Therefore it sounds paradoxic that it doesn’t have the potential for a revolution. I’ll explain you why, but first I want to explain you how robotic surgery works.
Robotic surgery is a method to perform surgery using very small tools attached to a robotic arm. The surgeon controls the robotic arms with a computer and directs the movements of the robot. All surgical tools are attached to the robot’s arm. It is similar to laparoscopic surgery (a technique where the surgeon inserts a small telescopic video camera and telescopic tools to operate with small cuts instead of open surgery). But whereas laparoscopic surgery only has 3 freedom degrees, the most common Da Vinci surgery robot allows the surgeon to make small, precise movements.
Using robotic surgery the surgeon’s termor can be balanced out, you need smaller cuts and in general it is much more precise. Therefore many operations like coronary artery bypasses, kidnery removals, mitral valve repairs and many more operations are done with robotic surgery. Patients can go home earlier, and therefore less intensive care is needed.
So why wouldn’t the future look like that: A robot helps the surgeon to identify the tumor, executes the surgery under the supervision of the surgeon, who watches in case of a difficult case or an emergency (much like a pilot in an airplane)?
Because the real game changers in healthcare and especially in tumor surgery come from diagnostics, pharma, bio informatics and immunology. In the future, we will be able to spot cancer in such early stages, that treating cancer will be similar to managing moles on sun-exposed skin.
Once the tumor is identified via biomarkers in blood, urine or saliva we’ll just need a small sample tissue (taken with a small needle that’s being stabbed into the respective body part). With this sample tissue we’ll be able to potentiate the reaction of our immune system against tumor cells with the help of immunotherapeutics.
Another approach would be to use so called adeno virus to kill cancer cells before they are even the size of a pea. Being infected with those genetically modified oncolytic virus would free us from all cancer cells, including metastasis.
We won’t need any pharmaceuticals anymore, becuase our body will produce all it needs himself. And that is pretty much how homeopathy is supposed to work. “similar things take care of similar things” or “like cures like” are two famous principles of homeopathy. Using your tumor cells to infect yourself with a genetically modified “antidote virus” sounds pretty much like homeopathy.
So who will need robotic surgery, if you can cure much more effectifely using this non-invasive technology?