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Surgical Robots

Robots have come a long way since the introduction of the word robot in 1920 in Karel Capek’s play. We are used to robotic assembly in factories but probably the fastest growing area of robotics is in surgery. Robots have moved out of the factory into the realm of medicine.

Three major advances in the area of robotic surgery have been remote surgery, minimally invasive surgery, and unmanned surgery. The main advantages of robotic surgery are increased precision, miniaturisation, smaller incisions, decreased blood loss, less pain and quicker healing time.

A PUMA 560 robot was used in 1985 to place a needle for brain biopsy, since then developments have led to robots being used in prostatic surgery, heart bypass surgery, heart arrhythmia correction by unassisted robotics surgery and the first all-robotic assisted kidney transplant in the US in 2009 to name a few. Devices used for these procedures, such as the ZEUS and Da Vinci systems, although less invasive, still require incisions.

Miniaturisation is the latest goal with ingestible robots and nanorobots for heart transplantation being developed. It sounds like the stuff of science fiction but prototypes already exist that can crawl and swim inside the body. 

One such robot is ARES (Assembling Reconfigurable Endoluminal Surgical System) developed by Scuola Superiore Sant'Anna - CRIM Lab, Italy. The patient swallows the individual parts of the robot which then self-assembles inside the body ready to aid the surgeon.

Inspec covers many aspects of surgical robots. Listed below are thesaurus terms and classification codes that would be useful when searching within this area.

Thesaurus terms:

  • surgery
  • medical robotics
  • microrobots
  • manipulators
  • micromanipulators
  • telerobotics
  • nanomedicine (new for 2011)

Classification codes:

a8770G Patient care and treatment
a8783 Nanotechnology applications in biomedicine
c3385 Biological and medical control system
c3390 Robotics (for robotic systems not specifically covered by narrower codes)
c3390M Manipulators