Surgical robots set to move into three new areas, says Sagentia

July 10, 2017

 July 11, 2017

Sagentia, the global product development company, says surgical robotics will increasingly have a role to play in three key areas: minimally-invasive surgery, specialist functional applications and finally in patient management, combined with artificial intelligence.

Continuum and snake robots will provide support for less invasive surgical techniques with their ability to navigate tortuous paths through the body and deliver visualization and instrumentation. Needlescopic robots buck the trend of single access entry with multiple ports so small they inflict little pain and virtually no scarring. 

Smaller less complex robotic systems which excel at specific functions will also take center stage, creating a greater diversity of surgical robots. Examples are robots for ENT microsurgery, cochlear ear implantation, MRI guided biopsy and vitreoretinal eye surgery. However, Sagentia believes that to be commercially successful such systems will need to find economies of scale from new and innovative applications.

Paul Wilkins, Managing Director, Medical at Sagentia comments: “The use of specialist robots in eye surgery has opened up new opportunities. Retinal vein catheterization, for example, requires tremor free microneedle placement for a period of 10 minutes, which is made possible by the availability of a specialized robot”.

Finally, Sagentia expects we will see robotics play a wider role in medical settings as the technologies are combined with other developments such as artificial intelligence (AI). AI is often cited as the enabler for fully autonomous robots which are able to make decisions and perform interventions without the control of a healthcare professional.

This may not be realistic, argues Wilkins: “It seems sensible that autonomous robots will first be introduced for medical activities which involve less risk to the patient than surgery or in cases where existing data is a good predictor of future outcomes.  Early examples may be ‘meet and greet’ robots taking on basic patient management tasks and then more complex tasks, such as triage. We should, therefore, look to the consumer robotics industry, as well as the existing medical robotics community, for wider medical robotics innovations”.

Sagentia sponsored the 10th anniversary of the Hamlyn Symposium on Medical Robotics which took place last month.