A robot performing surgery sounds like a scene out of a Hollywood
sci-fi flick. But fiction is fast turning into reality in Indian
operation theatres where high-precision robotic surgeries - a less
cumbersome procedure than conventional operations - are gaining
Leaving behind the days of low
technology methods, doctors are now ushering in a new era of medical
treatment successfully. Robotic surgery in Delhi's premier All India
Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) is one of the success stories.
"Robotic surgery is the next major revolution in the field of
surgery since the discovery of anaesthesia," Arvind Kumar, head of
the department of surgery at AIIMS, told IANS.
So far more than 60 chest surgeries have been performed through
robots in India. The robot is also used for urological surgeries
"The minimally invasive methods have brought a paradigm shift in the
way we operate by making equipments an extension of hands. This
reduces the risk of infection and shortens the recovery period,"
said the doctor who is an expert in minimally invasive general
surgery, general thoracic, thoracoscopic and robotic surgery.
Earlier, the use of robotic surgery was confined to the field of
cardiology. However, the doctors soon discovered that it was much
more useful for other surgeries.
"With the robot for chest surgery, the doctors do not need to
dissect the whole chest as is the norm in the traditional open chest
surgery or to break the rib bones or the sternum bone for
operation," Kumar said.
The robot consists of a set of four arms, two to operate, one to
hold the camera and the fourth one for assistance. These arms are
mounted on a platform and are controlled by the doctor sitting at
the control panel.
The panel consists of an eye piece which gives a three-dimensional
view and two joy-sticks to move the robot's arms. The movement of
the robot's hands is same as that of the doctor, making the
In robotic operation, only three incursions of 10 mm to 1 cm each
are needed, which prevents excessive bleeding and also reduces the
rehabilitation period by up to seven times.
"Moreover, the robotic arm is designed in such a way that it can
reach the interior part of the organ curvature, which is not
possible in the traditional or microscopic surgery without damaging
the normal tissues," Arvind Kumar said.
Similar convenience of minimal invasion is also possible through the
laparoscopy method in which surgeries are done with the help of a
rod like instrument which has a camera and surgical tools attached
to its end. The instrument is operated by doctors on the basis of
images obtained by the camera.
"Laparoscopy's shortcoming is that the camera fitted at the
instrument provides only a two-dimensional view and hence the
dimension of depth is lost," he adds.
On the other hand, the camera used in robotic surgery has two lenses
- giving a lifelike or 3-D picture.
Its other advantage is that the arm of the robot has a 360-degree
movement - just like a human hand, while laparoscopic instrument's
arm has a unidirectional movement.
"Robotic surgery gives the best of both - open surgery in terms of
3-D view and laparoscopy in terms of smaller cuts," he said.
The only disadvantage of the surgery is its high cost, which is at
least Rs.1 lakh (about 2,000 USD) more than a normal surgery.
The chest surgeries performed by robots are mainly for Myasthenia
Gravis - a disease characterised by nervous and muscular weakness.
Usually these operations leave a deep scar on the chest of the
patient - making it medically complicated as well as a stigma. In
the robotic surgery, the long cut is replaced by three small holes
which are barely 10 mm to 1 cm in size.
(Anjali Ojha can
be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)