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First robot perfectly completed autonomous bowel surgery

5/10/2016, Milan Šurkala
Robots are widely used in medicine in recent years but has not been able to act autonomously yet. That is history now. Autonomous robot STAR was able to perform complete pig bowel surgery and outperformed human surgeons.
We will meet more and more robots in the future, in hospitals for example. Even though they are widely used in medicine now, they are usually supervised by human surgeons and repeat his movements. Doctor Peter C. W. Kim and his team has created the new Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR) that is able to perform surgeries autonomously without any supervision from humans. It has 3D and infrared (NIRF) camera, therefore, it is able to locate all the structures and reconstruct the three-dimensional environment. Algorithms also take the deformations of soft tissues into account.
STAR robotsource: sciencemag.com
Successful test were carried out on pig bowels that have to be stitched together. In fact, the researches have divided intestines in two parts and human and robot surgeon should have performed the surgery. The STAR robot was more successful. His stitches were better spaced, more durable and accurate than the ones made by human. So far, STAR has performed four pig surgeries, all of them were successful and results were consistent.
Although the goal is not to replace surgeons, it is likely that more surgeries would be partly carried out by robots in the future and would expand human capabilities. That should also reduce the amount of errors and complications. It was found that one half of post-surgical complications were caused by the errors of human surgeons. For now, STAR is not going to be used in practice because there were only few tests carried out and much deeper evaluation and tweaking has to be done. At least, we know what to expect in the future.