Surgery is complex. When performing similar procedures, surgeons with various skill levels, training, and experience can have vastly different outcomes. Physical demands of surgery can also compound the problem, with longer procedures causing increased levels of fatigue, elevating the chances of making technical errors, and limiting the number of procedures that can be performed each day. Through new technological advancements incorporated into surgeons’ day-to-day routines, these fundamental inconsistencies are narrowing. And while it’s important to acknowledge the pivotal role these new technologies — AI and robotics — play in the operating room — the goal of machine integration should be to elevate a surgeon’s skill level, bandwidth, and performance, not to replace them.
Take for instance, the laparoscopic surgical industry. It has transformed from traditional practices — using basic tools — to digital laparoscopic surgery, with a new era of performance-guided surgery now on the horizon. Pioneered by Asensus Surgical, this new era of performance-guided surgery is a type of surgical approach that builds upon the foundation of digital laparoscopic surgery by adding machine vision, deep learning capabilities, and augmented intelligence.
Together, the power of these technologies focuses on the assistive role of augmented intelligence, designed to enhance human intelligence rather than replace it. By augmenting laparoscopy with some of the benefits of robotics, surgeons can experience the robotic benefits while continuing to leverage their laparoscopic skills. This natural evolution along the minimally invasive continuum provides many patient and surgeon benefits that have not been available in the past.
Technologies Driving the new era of Performance-Guided Surgery
A unique element of performance-guided surgery is the implementation of real-time augmented intelligence at the speed of thought. Through its Senhance Surgical System, Asensus Surgical offers the first-of-its-kind digital laparoscopic platform that leverages augmented intelligence to provide unmatched performance through machine learning. Augmented intelligence enables a robotic-assisted platform to perceive (computer vision), learn (machine learning), and assist (clinical intelligence) in surgery. This provides true digital surgical assistance for the first time. Powered by the Intelligent Surgical Unit™(ISU), this new era of digitization between the surgeon and patient is fostering industry growth that will make it more efficient, produce safer surgical outcomes, and may even improve the outlook of what’s possible in futuristic concepts like telesurgery.
Based on algorithms that can take into account historical and future performance, this technology is up-leveling surgical performance in many aspects. Through performance-guided surgery, surgeons can leverage robotics to perform complex procedures with geometrical precision and, more impressively, in anatomical areas that are difficult to reach by traditional instrumentation.
In terms of improving anatomical measurement, to date, surgeons have operated without simple, reliable, and accurate methods of obtaining measurements during minimally invasive surgery. Like a builder without a measuring tape, surgeons have had to use experience and best estimates to perform highly precise procedures. The only alternative had been to spend valuable OR time introducing difficult-to-use sterile accessories to achieve accurate measurements.
By focusing on AI’s machine vision capabilities and transformative power around how surgeries will be performed, this technological pairing is helping surgeons overcome some of these day-to-day consistency challenges while also improving their physical constraints through incredible ergonomic design benefits made possible by this technology.
Enhancing Surgeon Experiences in the OR
In addition to the performance challenges that technological advancements are helping surgeons tackle, there are many physical benefits as well. Today, the risk of ergonomic injury is impacting surgeons across many specialties due to the physical toll surgical performance puts on their bodies. In fact, one in five surgeons in the United States plans to retire early due to the physical strain their bodies endure when conducting certain medical operations.1
For minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery — procedures performed through tiny incisions — surgeons have said it’s “literally backbreaking work.” This includes muscular or back pain — which can result in long-term musculoskeletal injuries. This is because this type of surgery can be difficult to conduct and physically grueling for surgeons, as they often stand for extended periods in uncomfortable or difficult positions to perform procedures including hysterectomy, hernia repair, and colectomy.
Historically, technological innovation in the OR has been focused on surgical tools to improve the action portion of the process. However, little advancement has been made to improve the physical comfort of the surgeons operating on the patients — until now. By leveraging robotic technology, powered by artificial intelligence and machine learning, operating rooms are being transformed to deliver an innovative and enhanced surgeon experience.
The Asensus Senhance Surgical System, for example, is being used to lessen the physical toll on surgeons. For instance, robotic arms provide the power of pause, allowing the instruments to remain stable and stationary as the surgeon changes position or eye-tracking camera control frees the hands of surgical staff for other in-room activities.
This technology also allows surgeons to perform many types of complex procedures with more precision, flexibility, and control than previously possible with conventional techniques. This also gives the surgeon unprecedented control in a minimally invasive environment, resulting in smaller incisions, shorter recovery time, potentially less pain, and improved outcomes. This elevated level of control can help surgeons become more instinctive, more responsive, and more focused. This creates an environment conducive to performing a greater variety of procedures, reaching more patients in more care settings, and performing more operations by shortening surgery times — by limiting breaks due to fatigue or back pain, for instance.
Many surgeons already see the benefits of robotic-assisted surgery and are performing an increased number and wider variety of procedures. There are many features of robotic-assisted surgery platforms that make it easier for surgeons to perform procedures. With Senhance specifically, this technology has an open concept design and provides digitization of laparoscopy. Armed with this new ability, surgeons can provide the best outcome for every patient, every time. The industry is at the pinnacle of realizing exactly what robotic-assisted technology can do for minimally invasive surgery. Surgeons today are well-positioned to help integrate augmented intelligence into modern practice. By leveraging pre-, intra-, and post-operative data, surgeons can revolutionize how surgery is taught and practiced with the promise of a future optimized for the highest quality patient care.
- “One in five surgeons set to retire early due to physical toll,” CMR Surgical press release, September 15, 2019.
This article was written by Anthony Fernando, President and CEO of Asensus Surgical, Durham, NC. He also serves on the board of directors of the Advanced Medical Technology Association (AdvaMed-Accel). For more information, visit here .