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Catalan hospital incorporates robot in surgical operations

Currently in trial period, if successful the technology will be used in 150 annual surgeries

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11 May 2018 01:22 PM

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Marina López & Alex Rolandi | Barcelona

Not so long ago, robots as we know them today were the realm of science fiction. But more and more they are being incorporated into modern life. As is the case at the Trueta hospital in Girona, northern Catalonia, where a group of surgeons have been carrying out operations with the help of a high-tech surgical robot.

By reducing the element of human error, using the machine improves the results of surgical interventions as it increases accuracy, especially in more complex types of operations. Since April 10, a total of twelve patients have undergone operations where not all the surgeons were made of mere flesh and bone. Robotic surgery has been used on five patients with urological cancers, four with gynaecological cancers, and three with colon and rectal cancer.

Tele-surgery

It is forecast that the surgeons will be able to carry out 150 operations a year when the new technology is fully-implemented. According to the hospital’s surgery coordinator, Doctor Nicolau  Carrasco, these operations are a type of “tele-surgery” as the robot is not working alone, but is following the instruction of the surgeon controlling the surgical console.

Although it may not be a sentient being, it does not mean it has been deprived of its own namesake. At this stage, the robot, called ‘Da Vinci' is going through a testing period. If the results are positive, plans are to incorporate the technology definitively in the operating theatre.

A humanoid affair

The concept of artificial beings has been a subject of fascination for humans for thousands of years. Indeed, in Jewish folklore a golem was a creature made out of inanimate matter that came to life. But over the millennia, the idea of these artificial creatures evolved. The Greek god Hephaestus, for example, supposedly created automatons out of gold to assist him in his work.

Fast forward to the 15th century, and Leonardo Da Vinci himself, with whom the surgical robot shares its name, published various designs for a mechanical knight.

The word robot itself, was coined by Czech playwright in his science fiction play ‘Rossum’s Universal Robots’ about a factory that created artificial people to be used as servants. Things have come a long way since, as can be seen at Hospital Trueta and beyond. In the 21st century, robot technology plays a key part in many aspects of society, especially in production. They can be found in factories, warehouses, hospitals, and even the hotel industry.

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  • Surgeons working alongside Da Vinci robot at Hospital Trueta in Girona (courtesy of Hospital Trueta)

  • Surgeons working alongside Da Vinci robot at Hospital Trueta in Girona (courtesy of Hospital Trueta)