Since the 1980s, laparoscopic “minimally invasive” surgical procedures have become commonplace. Like any new technology, there was an adjustment period as surgeons grew accustomed to the fact that they were no longer going to be able to perceive the patient the same way as before, with open procedures. Similar to the time at which laparoscopy became the hot new thing, there is a consensus in the MedTech world that robotics are the future of fast, safe, accurate surgical procedures.
Fast forward from the 1980’s to 2016, where Intuitive Surgical’s da Vinci surgical robot is the next revolution of laparoscopic surgery. Just as laparoscopy became a standard procedure and a generation of doctors accepted it as such, a radically new technology and technique emerges and becomes accepted by hospitals and regulatory agencies worldwide. Da Vinci has all the benefits of laparoscopic surgery with decreased likelihood of complications and even faster recovery times because of the precision performance of robotic laparoscopy. However, just like before, surgeons must now accept a new normal with an uncomfortable transition. Haptics, or the sensory feedback one receives when interacting with something using a tool (imagine a surgeon performing an appendectomy using 18” long surgical tools) is a very important component of developing the skills required to become a surgeon, and a crucial sensory complement when performing laparoscopic procedures. A surgeon becomes attuned to what it “feels like” to incise, suture, or otherwise interact with different anatomical parts and tissues. With robotic surgery (right now), that haptic feedback is absent.
Dr. Henry Feldman, Assistant Professor at Harvard Medical School and board-certified attending physician in Internal Medicine, described the situation surgeons face with the advent of surgical robotics at this month’s Boston Medical Development Group June forum. For certain procedures, haptic feedback may be useful or expected by surgeons, but not necessary. However, for more high-risk procedures like cardiac, pulmonary or spinal surgery, the confidence of the doctor to “feel” their way through an emergency or unexpected circumstance at the operating table is a bigger concern. The design of surgical robots is in need of improvements to provide flexibility in establishing mid-procedure emergency protocols, and training surgeons and their teams in the new protocols associated with each potential case.
Luckily, Intuitive is no longer the only game in town when it comes to surgical robotics. Medrobotics and Corindus have hit the marketplace with surgical robotic systems of their own. However, each of these company’s products – the Flex System by Medrobotics and the CorPath System by Corindus – distinguishes itself from competitors with innovative approaches. The Medrobotics Flex System allows surgeons to navigate a snake-like robot into surgical sites in the throat (and more sites in the future) using a haptic steering mechanism guided by HD video on the snake itself, from a base unit next to the hospital bed. This system provides a new option for ENT surgical procedures, when before the only option may have been open surgery for that area of the body. CorPath uses a radiation-shielded workstation as a base for the surgeon to perform percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) procedures near the bedside, using a robotic steering mechanism and X-Ray image guidance. CorPath provides long-term safety for cath lab technicians and practitioners by reducing radiation exposure by up to 95%.
Medrobotics and Corindus are providing new approaches for procedures that improve outcomes, prioritize safety and bring medical staff concerns into consideration. They are among a very small group of companies seeking to market robotic surgical navigation systems. What is particularly exciting is that these devices represent the very beginning of a new wave of surgical robots that are revolutionizing the way medical professionals are trained, let alone how they perform these particular procedures. At the same time, the speed at which these innovations arrive has outpaced the shelf life of their predecessors, which is an issue that innovators and doctors must address together.
Cogmedix is proud to stay on the cutting edge of technological evolutions as a medical device manufacturer. Working with the most innovative OEMs around the country to bring new medical devices to market quickly and with rigorous commitment to regulatory compliance, Cogmedix brings medical technologies to life.