Trainee surgeons given a guiding hand

Researchers in the US plan to combine surgical robotic systems with telemedicine to allow highly skilled surgeons guide trainee surgeons through complex, minimally invasive procedures.

UCLA’s School of Medicine and Computer Motion Inc. have announced that they are to collaborate in a program that will combine surgical robotic systems with telemedicine to allow highly skilled surgeons guide trainee surgeons through complex, minimally invasive procedures.

The collaboration will be funded with a $2 million research-and-development grant from the US National Institute of Standards Advanced Technology Program 2001 competition.

The proposed training system is based on the integration of four of Computer Motion’s robotic surgical systems and features Zeus, which is a robotic system designed for minimally invasive microsurgical procedures. The system will be modified to include two identical surgeon consoles with shared control of a single set of ‘arms’ that are used to operate on the patient.

Other significant developments to the system will include ‘haptic’ feedback so trainee surgeons can feel their mentor’s actions through the console controls and experience surgery through the hands of an expert.

In September 2001, doctors using a specially modified Zeus system performed the world’s first transatlantic telesurgery. The system was used by a surgeon operating from a console in New York to remove the gallbladder of a patient in France.

‘This could be the world’s first tele-collaborative surgical system,’ said Dr. E. Carmack Holmes, professor and chairman of the department of surgery at UCLA. ‘We hope to develop a program that mimics a flight simulator to help train future surgeons.’

‘The shared-control robotic system to be developed with this grant will let experts give the fundamental physical interaction, that is critical for training, to more surgeons while eliminating the demand of travel time on their schedules,’ added Dr. Peter Schulam, chief of the division of endourology and laparoscopy at UCLA Medical Centre and the lead clinical investigator.