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Robot Surgeon Plays Rhythms With Your Heart

By M@ Last edited 131 months ago
Robot Surgeon Plays Rhythms With Your Heart
Hello I will be your surgeon today.jpg

Robotic surgeons are less the stuff of science fiction than you might think. Our metal minions are increasingly used in surgical procedures, allowing greater precision, and operation by telepresence.

Londonist is no stranger to the combination of flesh and machine (no giggles at the back). In our formative years, we received a crude lesson in mechanical suture application during a particularly gory crafts lesson. If we just say the featured elements were a couple of fingers, an electric sewing machine and about a pint of blood, we’ll let you fill in the rest of the picture. More recently, we got to fiddle with the business end of the da Vinci robot, but shudder at the thought of lying naked and exposed to its chromium claws.

Perhaps we should try and shake off our luddite sensibilities. These things are obviously tested rigorously before being let loose on humans. And here’s an interesting application from Imperial College, London. Now robots can be kitted out to perform bypass surgery without having to stop the heart. Normally, the chest cavity must be opened (crack), the heart must be stopped (beeeeeeeeep) and the blood circulated by pumping equipment (we’re not really sure what noise that would make – perhaps a whiiiiir sort of sound. Yeah. Maybe.).

It goes like this. The robot’s endoscopic appendage is fed into the body and directed towards the heart. The robot is then instructed to do its business while the heart is still beating, moving its instruments forward and backwards in time to the rhythm. Of course, it’s not all automated. A 100% human surgeon is at the controls, and operates the cutting tools via a monitor, where clever software makes the heart look static.

The software is being trialled on artificial, silicone systems before any flesh and blood are troubled. -Insert predictable gag about Jordan here-.

Last Updated 23 February 2006