Robot Outperforms Human Surgeons In Pig Gut Op

A robot has outperformed human surgeons in an experimental operation on pig guts, and it could operate on humans within three years.

The Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR) managed to stitch together the intestines of live and dead pigs – and it times worked faster and more accurately than a human.

The robot did not operate alone – it needed a consultant to show it where to stitch – but researchers say it is an important step forward.

Dr Peter Kim, from the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, said: "Our results demonstrate the potential for autonomous robots to improve the efficacy, consistency, functional outcome and accessibility of surgical techniques."

He said the intention was not to replace surgeons, but instead to provide them with new tools to help them work more accurately.

The robot is equipped with 3D vision cameras and a series of manipulators, and is powered by an algorithm that can predict how tissue will move when it is stitched.

To help guide the robot, the consultant used fluorescent paint to mark out the area to be worked on.

After that, the robot’s algorithm kicked in and it went to work.

STAR showed that it was better than a human surgeon at placing regularly spaced stitches, and avoiding leakages in the intestines being operated on.

However it was slower – needing 35 minutes for a task that would usually take a human about eight minutes to complete.

Team member Dr Axel Krieger said: "Until now, autonomous robot surgery has been limited to applications with rigid anatomy, such as bone cutting, because they are more predictable.

"By using novel tissue tracking and applied force measurement, coupled with suture automation software, our robotic system can detect arbitrary tissue motions in real time and automatically adjust."

Further development will now take place with the hope of using it on humans within three years.

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