Virtual Incision is a robotic surgical assistant that enters the living human body to perform complicated and delicate operations.
Using robots to perform medical treatment has been the thing of science fiction for decades, but an operation completed in Paraguay this month has made the stuff of fantasy a reality. In what is thought to be the first in human use of a miniaturized robotic device for surgery, the tiny robot, developed by California-based company Virtual Incision, helped cut away potentially cancerous growths and lesions in the patient’s lower gut.
Unlike larger robots that can perform some operations from outside the patient’s body, the Virtual Incision robot is a small, self-contained surgical device that is inserted through a small cut to the patient’s abdomen. The robot uses tools that are familiar to doctors and surgeons, and because of its small size could potentially reduce the cost of using existing robots, which also use a more invasive approach to surgery with a large open incision.
Virtual Incision’s co-founder Shane Farritor said: “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time an active miniaturized robot has performed complex surgical tasks with the robot inside a living human, which is a significant milestone in robotics and in surgery.” The company say the successful completion of the first surgeries sees the end of the feasibility trials of their product, and they are now hoping for permission to start trialling the technology in the US.
With this new development in miniature robotics, what other procedures could be improved by using small-scale robotics?