Virtually every aspect of the medical world is now influenced by robotics. Robots aid with surgery devices, they are used for medical training, they can be valuable in rehabilitation, and they can assist people with disabilities and prosthetics. Robots can even be used in surgeries, where they replace missing limbs, perform surgical procedures, and deliver therapy to incapacitated patients.
Medical robotic technology is most commonly used for rehabilitation. Rehabilitation incorporates assistive robots, prosthetics, orthotics, and therapeutic robotic needs. Assistive robots can actually help people with impaired arm functions perform ordinary tasks, like eating and drinking, or opening a desk drawer. For those with impaired leg functions, assistive robots can include wheelchairs with intelligent navigation systems. Prosthetics and orthotics can replace lost limbs, or enable more movement for weak limbs. Finally, therapeutic robots deliver neuro-rehabilitation to people needing it after an event like a stroke.
Operating rooms are evolving into more robotic-driven places as well. Humans are subject to error and fatigue, two entities that can be controlled by a medical robot. Instead of a tired human holding an endoscopic camera, for instance, a robotic arm can automate the camera positioning, providing the surgeon with a stable view of the surgical area. AESOP produced a voice-activated 7-DOF robotic arm for this specific purpose.
Because of their high precision and accuracy, surgical robots are benefitting the health care system. They actually perform the surgical tasks, while the surgeon in the room provides the high-level thinking and decision-making. Surgical robots are grouped according to three classifications: semi-autonomous systems, guided systems, and teleoperation systems. The tool path of a robot in semi-autonomous mode is based on a representation gathered by an imaging device, and can operate without interference from the surgeon. In a guided system, the surgeon moves the tool in the robotic arm. His forces and torques are sensed by a sensor on the robot and translated into a command. The teleoperated robot is like the ZEUS and da Vinci: two robotic systems controlled by Intuitive Surgical. The robotic systems have three robotic arms to manipulate surgical instruments and to control the endoscopic camera. The surgeon in the room can control the position of the arms by using two handles at his console, and the camera is controlled by his voice.
Not only do medical robots increase precision, but they can also access hard-to-reach areas of a patient’s body. Robots have been used in the following procedures: coronary artery bypass, gallbladder removal, hip replacement, hysterectomy, kidney removal and transplant, mitral valve repair, pyeloplasty, radical prostatectomy, and tubal ligation. Because the surgical cuts made with robots are generally smaller and less invasive than with traditional surgery, robotic surgery might lead to a faster recovery time and less risk of infection or scarring.