The Versius robotic system from Cambridge Medical Robots promises to revolutionize keyhole surgery. It’s the world’s smallest surgery robot and has been designed to mimic the human arm.
Keyhole surgery comes with plenty of recognized clinical benefits. For patients, minimally invasive procedures lead to less trauma, reduced scarring and shorter recovery times. For hospitals and healthcare providers, fast keyhole procedures are cost effective.
But there are two challenges to effective keyhole surgery. The first is that the techniques involved require years of training. The second is that these procedures remain difficult to perform, no matter how much training a surgeon has had; accuracy, stamina and a steady hand all remain vital.
Using robots in theatre
Using robots in the operating theatre is not a new concept. But today’s technology is far from perfect – at least from a cost-benefit point of view.
Speaking with The Guardian, Cambridge Medical Robotics CEO Martin Frost highlighted how many of today’s surgical robots fail to deliver on their potential.
“The problem at the moment is that they are phenomenally expensive – not only do they cost £2 million each to buy, but every procedure costs an extra £3,000 using the robot. And they are very large. Many hospitals have to use the operating theatre around the robot. Their size can also make them difficult for the surgical team to use.”
Making the most of the technology is the obvious challenge. “They are also poorly utilized; they are only really used for pelvic surgery, and can’t be easily adapted to other types of surgery. In some hospitals, they are only being used once every other day,” he said.
Small and versatile
Versius from Cambridge Medical Robots (CMR), by contrast, is said to be the world’s smallest surgical robot, so it’s already gone some way to addressing the issues of size and versatility.
Inspired by the dexterity of the human arm, it’s made up of a surgeon console and a light-weight robotic arm that can be attached to a range of instruments. To safely navigate the intricacies of the human body, Versius uses 3D high-definition imagery and force feedback, giving surgeons the sensitivity, awareness and respite they need to complete operations in which there is little room for error.
Versius is smaller and cheaper compared to robotic counterparts already carrying out keyhole surgery. It is expected to hit the market next year at less than half the price of current models.
Around the world, annual revenue from robot-assisted keyhole surgery is expected to rise from $4 billion to $20 billion by 2025. Frost certainly sees the potential. “Five years from now,” he told The Guardian, “we hope to be one of the largest surgical robot companies internationally, with a robot in every major hospital.”
On 31 October & 1 November 2017, Internet of Business will be holding its Internet of Health USA event at the Royal Sonesta in Boston, MA. This event is North America’s only conference focused 100 percent on IoT applications for health providers and payers.