Dr. Roger Smith, chief technology officer for Florida Hospital’s Nicholson Center for Surgical Advancement, delivers a very interesting and exciting overview of the incredible advances in robotic-assisted surgeries. Dr. Smith has a storied career in the medical science and technology field. Smith was the CTO for U.S. Army Simulation, Training and Instrumentation as well as a research scientist at the prestigious Texas A&M University. He is a graduate faculty scholar at University of Central Florida. Smith is highly focused on innovative technologies and medical education, along with treatment and services. He has served as VP and/or CTO for several companies and corporations and has published hundreds of technical papers on the advanced topics of corporate innovation, military simulation, computer gaming, and of course medical education.
As Dr. Smith explains, one of the Nicholson Center for Surgical Advancement’s goals is the education of physicians and surgeons on new techniques and tools for the healthcare field. When Intuitive Surgical of Silicon Valley releases the ‘da Vinci’ robot, they selected the Nicholson Center to partner with them, to serve as their premiere education center. As such, the Nicholson Center is one of the top locations for the advanced training of robotic surgeons. And as the technology has evolved, Smith states that many specialized robots have been developed for areas such as orthopedics, spinal and neurological procedures, etc. While the Nicholson Center utilizes many different robots for teaching, the da Vinci is by far the most utilized. Smith discusses how the robotic technology has enabled many more procedures to be completed per day, allowing more patients to receive treatment much quicker than in the traditional surgical environment. And this process allows surgeons to spend more of their day performing surgery with less downtime, although the efficiency may not be ideal for all surgeons, as some may feel more comfortable with longer breaks between surgeries. Thus, it depends on the surgeon’s personality and their preferred methods.
Dr. Smith provides an overview of the three basic types of surgery. He describes open surgery, in which surgeons open up an area that is larger, to enable the use of instruments; laparoscopic surgery (minimally invasive / keyhole surgery) which is a surgical technique whereby operations are performed through small incisions; and robotic surgery, which is essentially robotic-assisted laparoscopic surgery. Smith states that the prostatectomy procedure for men and hysterectomy procedure for women are the bulk of surgeries performed via the use of da Vinci. As the camera and instrument inserted are completely stable with robotic assistance, surgeons can be even more precise than with traditional manual-only procedures.
Dr. Smith states that the robotic system is so sophisticated that it can detect a surgeon’s hand tremors due to their advancing age or perhaps too much caffeine, and filter out these involuntary movements. Essentially the robot can tell the difference between a surgeon’s hand movements due to the aforementioned involuntary methods and when the surgeon is making an actual surgical movement. The amazing technology thus enables brilliant surgeons to no longer face early retirement simply due to aging hands; their minds can perform the work perfectly, with a little help from the steady hand that the robot provides.
Dr. Smith talks about the new upcoming technologies that are on the horizon. He states that machinery is getting smaller, and electronics are improving rapidly, which is enabling more companies to access the market to compete with da Vinci. Another wonderful outcome of the advancing technology is that new methods and equipment are being released into the marketplace that will allow surgeons who use radiation during procedures to now stand behind protective glass that keeps them safe.
For as the small amount of radiation used in a patient procedure is of no concern to the patient, it is, however, a potential health hazard for the surgeon who is exposed to radiation during procedures daily, for decades, through hundreds or even thousands of surgical procedures. Additionally, Smith discusses the use of AI for surgery, and how data and AI can provide guided advice to the surgeon as he or she performs it. Thus, technology continues to impact our world in literally every area of operation, no pun intended.