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Robosurgeon - Aesop never tires or shakes and always obeys orders

点击量:   时间:2017-04-11 07:01:09

By Jeff Hecht Boston A voice-operated robot that can be told how to carry out delicate heart operations was successfully tested on a cow last month. Surgeons working for the Penn State Geisinger Health System, which operates throughout Pennsylvania, used the device to perform keyhole surgery on the cow’s heart. The machine is made by Computer Motion, a medical robotics company in Goleta, California. Keyhole surgery requires only a tiny opening, through which the team inserts tools and a viewing instrument called an endoscope, which enables the surgeon to watch the operation on a video monitor. The smaller incision speeds the patient’s recovery after the operation, but means that the surgeon must coordinate tools with great precision. Often a nurse lends a hand to hold a video camera or the endoscope, while someone outside the sterile zone of the operating theatre controls lights and video equipment. But with the new robot, the surgeon can sit in a chair a metre or more from the patient and control the whole operation while watching a video display. The robotic arms are passed into the chest cavity where they can perform precision surgery without ever getting tired or shaking. “Trying to operate on the heart and suture vessels together through very small, 3 to 5-millimetre ports in the chest wall is impossible,” according to Ralph Damiano, chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Penn State. By the end of the year, Computer Motion plans to apply for permission from the American government’s Food and Drug Administration to use the robot in human operations. In December, the company won federal approval to sell an earlier version of the voice-operated robot called Aesop for use on humans. Carlos Gracia, a specialist in keyhole surgery at the San Ramon Regional Medical Center, has tested the robot and a semiautomated operating theatre, called Hermes, which has also been developed by Computer Motion. Aesop recognises 22 spoken commands, such as “Aesop, move down”. The control system uses a program that is tuned to respond to the normal speech of only one doctor. It also requires the doctor to use a specific syntax, so that neither other voices nor frustrated curses can accidentally trigger robotic movements. “If you’re screaming ‘Aesop’, you’re not making the sound the robot is used to hearing, so it won’t respond,” says a Computer Motion spokeswoman. The Hermes operating theatre is also controlled by the surgeon’s voice. Gracia used Hermes during five operations to operate devices normally controlled from outside the sterile zone. Gracia says the system “performed wonderfully”. “The ability to use one’s voice to regain direct control of, and have instantaneous response from the equipment is a significant advantage,