Why robot assisted surgeries are the best option in pandemic times

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COVID-19 has changed the scenario of delivery of healthcare. Healthcare workers are at risk of contracting the infection and there is this intrinsic fear of patient contracting the infection from the health care staff in the operations theatre. Consequently, people have become apprehensive about getting any medical procedures done for fear of contracting the virus and developing further complications.

While social distancing is the new norm/necessity, robot assisted surgeries have proved to be a blessing in the field of surgical procedures. This technique of surgeries is characterised by shorter stays at the hospitals, minimal blood loss, practicing social distancing (the surgeon sits on a console and guides the procedure via robotic instruments) ensuring minimum contact between the patient and staff. Robot assisted surgeries have given surgeons immense control over the surgery, we can guide the entire procedure while on a computer operated console, through master controls for hand movements and precision-guided robotic arms.

Advantages in times of COVID-19

Robot assisted surgery keeps the surgeon and staff away from the patient and only the sterile tips of the robotic arms are inside the patient’s mouth or any other site depending upon the type of surgery. Also use of special smoke evacuators to remove plume from patient’s body makes it a safe surgery for all health care workers too.

Operation theatres for robot assisted surgeries have less personnel. With the advent of AI and robotics starting from history and physical examination until discharge direct physical contact is avoided. Certain hospitals in the world already have robots for performing tasks like temperature checking, drawing blood samples, for cleaning and lifting the patients and transporting them from the ward to the theatre etc. After robot assisted surgeries patients can go home early and there are no chances of infection as there is no direct handling of tissues.

In big corporate set ups where robotic suites are available strict protocols before surgery are also followed like RTPCR testing of every patient before admission and anaesthesia protocols specially designed during the pandemic. All these are followed to maintain safety. The number of robot assisted surgeries have gone up in this pandemic in all big hospitals across the country.

How it works

In a robotic/ robot assisted surgery the surgeon is seated at a console that displays a magnified 3D image of the surgical site. While working on a computer operated console, the surgeon uses master controls for hand movements. Through this they can perform several procedures with precision-guided robotic arms that hold and manipulate miniaturised instruments that are inserted through keyhole-sized incisions in the patients. A small video camera is inserted through a tiny incision , that helps the surgeons get a magnified 3D image of the operating site. This is used for surgery in the mouth, neck, chest and abdomen for cancerous and non-cancerous diseases. It is also used for bariatric surgery and complex hernia repairs.