The patient was a pig. The surgeon was a robot.
The bot had some help, but the results of the study released today in Science Translational Medicine show that robot-assisted surgery is likely to become more widespread in the future.
The Smart Tissue Autonomous Robot (STAR) was programmed to perform intestinal anastomoses, which is like stitching a soft, slippery garden hose. The intestines of Yorkshire piglets are, according to the study’s authors, similar to that of a pediatric patient. STAR’s sutures were more consistently spaced and showed less leakage than the ones done by an expert surgeon.
As IEEE Spectrum notes, the purpose of this study was not to show that autonomous surgeons should replace the real thing, but to “expand human capacity and capability through enhanced vision, dexterity, and complementary machine intelligence for improved surgical outcomes, safety, and patient access.”