eli5 why is a surgical robot better than a surgeon


If the robot arms are only doing what the surgeon moves them to do, why is robotic surgery better and safer than the surgeon doing it himself

In: 4

Robot doesn’t move at all compared to the human hand which naturally sways and wiggles and gets tired

This means there’s less chance of errors due to human limitations

If the surgery requires an incision of a very precise length and depth then the surgeon can instruct the robot to cut EXACTLY that much, and the incision can be perfectly straight.

That is not to say that human surgeons are not already capable of being very precise in their actions, in fact they are famous for this. But a robot can, in the right circumstances, achieve levels of accuracy that even incredibly skilled human hands cannot, when a difference of a few millimetres can turn a life-saving operation into a fatal one.

It’s also easier to keep a robot completely sterile. Even though surgeons and their staff go to great lengths to be meticulously clean when performing surgery, the risk of infection is never zero. Some patients might be extra vulnerable to infection from even the slightest exposure, robots help avoid that.

A robotic cutter like a laser cutter can cut exactly the same shape out of a piece of steel for instance, every time. A human would never be this precise. Cutting a human open requires the same level of precision, not something you expect from a human to do thousands of times without smaller or bigger mistakes. You can expect a robot to be precise 100% of the time. Also the physical limit of precision when it comes to humans isn’t that high.

Basically robots have tiny hands. And the hands aren’t hands but specific medical instruments. Incisions can be made smaller, and large hand movements translated into smaller instrument movements allow for more precise use of those instruments.

In particular with a laparoscopic surgery you can pass the little arms through tubes in small incisions to get to a work area deep in the body, instead of having to make a larger cut and move different organ bits out of the way to clear a work area.

All the answers here are great, there is one I haven’t see mentioned: Remote expertise.

Once a hospital has a robot surgeon (and the appropriate high resilience, low latency network), they can benefit from the expertise of any specialized surgeon on the network (potentially worldwide).

In the one hospital in NYC, one surgery could be performed by a brain specialist in LA, and the next by a lung specialist in Sydney, without having to fly everyone around.

It allows the expertise to be available wherever it is most needed without lengthy delays.