First all-robotic surgery and anesthesia performed

Posted by Emma Woollacott

Canada's McGill University Health Centre has hosted the world's first operation and anesthesia to be carried out entirely by robots.

The patient was particularly brave, as the operation was a prostatectomy - any slip could have upsetting consequences.

"Collaboration between DaVinci, a surgical robot, and anesthetic robot McSleepy, seemed an obvious fit; robots in medicine can provide health care of higher safety and precision, thus ultimately improving outcomes," said Dr TM Hemmerling of McGill University.

The DaVinci robot is operated by a team of surgeons from a dedicated workstation via video control with 3D HD image quality.

"[It] allows us to work from a workstation operating surgical instruments with delicate movements of our fingers with a precision that cannot be provided by humans alone," says Dr A Aprikian, MUHC urologist in chief.

Hemmerling said that providing anesthesia for robotic prostatectomy is difficult because of the need to get the patient positioning and  muscle relaxation exactly right.

"Automated anesthesia delivery via McSleepy guarantees the same high quality of care every time it is used, independent from the subjective level of expertise. It can be configured exactly to the specific needs of different surgeries, such as robotic surgery," he said.

The team plans to use the results of this project to test all-robotic surgery and anesthesia on more patients and different types of surgery.

"Obviously, there is still some work needed to perfect the all-robotic approach – from technical aspects to space requirements for the robots," said Hemmerling.

"Whereas robots have been used in surgery for quite some time, anesthesia has finally caught up. Robots will not replace doctors but help them to perform to the highest standards."