The Doctor Is In

Add this to the list of what machines can now do better: Surgery.

Today, US scientists announced that an autonomous surgical robot designed to suture soft tissue, completely independent of human control or guidance, managed to outperform human surgeons.

The demonstration for the Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR) was conducted on pig specimens (using inanimate pig tissue and live, anesthetized pig specimens) and involved stitching together a pair of tubular structures, blood vessels called anastomosis. Its success, reported in Science Translational Medicine, proves that a machine is actually capable of handling the unpredictability and malleability of soft tissue.

The STAR showed more consistent stitching and lower mistakes than the human surgeon who was part of the demonstration. However, the robot took 35 minutes to complete the procedure, whereas the human surgeon finished the sutures in less than 10 minutes.

So. Your surgery may be better, but it will also be a lot longer.

Robots in the OR

But the team behind STAR is quick to point out that it’s not designed to replace surgeons, rather, it’s a way for human surgeons to expand their capability by tapping into the machine’s more precise vision and enhanced dexterity.

Currently, the researchers are trying to find a commercial partner that will allow them to bring this technology into hospitals. And if all goes well, we could soon see STAR stitching up patients in the next couple of years.

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