Smaller tools with better maneuverability and more precise control, new imaging approaches, and advanced software applications will improve patient outcomes

Surgeons around the world are now using robot-assisted tech to help them perform minimally invasive operations ranging from hernia repair and gall bladder removal to knee replacement and cancer-related colectomy, often manipulating the surgical tools from a computer console some distance from the patient.

Why is the medical industry so interested in robots for these laparoscopic or keyhole operations? One of the biggest advantages is that they help the average surgeon perform at a higher level, according to Robert Webster, Ph.D., Virtuoso Surgical Co-founder, President and CTO, and Vanderbilt University’s Richard A. Schroeder professor of mechanical engineering and head of Vanderbilt’s Medical Engineering and Discovery Laboratory. “You’d be amazed at what the best-of-the-best doctors can do with just a straight endoscope that has a laser fiber sticking out of it. They free-hand that crazy, long, metal rod, lever it around, and do really delicate surgeries out of the tip,” he described. “But a typical surgeon doesn’t have that skill set. So what surgical robotics is really good at is democratizing health care, and conveying the skills of the truly elite doctors to all surgeons, and therefore to all patients.”