When robots rule the world (of surgery)

Sunday, February 05, 2017 Stef dela Cruz, MD 0 Comments

Robots are the stuff science fiction is made of – just ask any Terminator movie fan. However, we do have robots that help us function more efficiently – just ask a doctor who specializes in robot-assisted surgery.

robotic surgeryAre we setting ourselves up for an apocalyptic invasion of… gasp… robots?!?
Laughable, but that made you think, didn’t it?

Robotic innovation in surgery promises to minimize damage, if not avoid it altogether. It is this promise that Dr. Eugenio Ramos, senior vice president for Medical Services Group and the rest of the Robotics Surgery team of The Medical City (TMC), hopes to fulfill by re-launching their Robotics Surgery Program.

He recalled the surgery of their CEO, a time when robotic surgery might have been useful. “We consumed ten units of blood while operating on him,” he recalled. “Blood would rise to the skin when we manipulated the tissues and we had to suction [constantly].”

Avoiding certain tissues also proved challenging using conventional surgery, he said. “[Through robotic surgery], you could really avoid the nerves. In prostatectomy, if you touched certain nerves, the result would be erectile dysfunction.”

Robots are often seen as invasive technology, both in sci-fi and reality. The paradox lies in how robots might actually minimize “invasion” in surgery.


Invasion is a bad word

“Minimally-invasive surgery is a recent modality [that minimizes] surgical incisions to reduce trauma to the body. It is a very important development in the field of medicine and surgery because we are bound by our oath to do patients no harm, and a large incision in open surgery is a form of harm,” said Dr. Michael Dennis dela Paz, currently part of a minimally-invasive surgery program in the Philippines.

Dr. dela Paz received international commendation for a 2016 paper on minimally-invasive surgery co-written with his mentor. The objective of the paper, which was based on a spur-of-the-moment idea to complete his preceptorship requirements, was to “introduce a fun […] way of skill exercise through endoscopic painting”.

“…We are bound by our oath to do patients no harm, and a large incision in open surgery is a form of harm.” – Dr. Michael dela Paz

Endoscopic painting allowed surgeons to combine the art of painting and the science of laparoscopy, also a type of minimally-invasive surgery. After a poster presentation during the Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons 2016 Annual Convention in Massachusetts, the paper was invited for submission to the European Association for Endoscopic Surgeons 2016 Annual Congress, where it became an “amazing technology paper” finalist, trumping other entries that dealt with futuristic innovations.

robot-assisted surgeryAre robots the inevitable future of surgery?

Dr. dela Paz was also chosen as one of 40 young researchers in the Philippines to attend a workshop on health innovation and research by the Department of Science and Technology, together with the Philippine National Health Research System, Philippine Council of Health Research and Development, Philippine Association of Medical Journal Editors, and the Asia Pacific Association of Medical Journal Editors.

After a series of talks in his home country and abroad, his paper received the Harrith M. Hasson’s Best Paper for Training and Education.

Part II:
The greatest risk in robotics surgery

Stef dela CruzAbout the blogger
Stef dela Cruz is a vegan doctor and writer. She received the 2013 Award for Health Media from the Department of Health. She is the editor of The Manila Bulletin's Animal Scene Magazine. Get in touch if you want to invite her as a speaker!