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Performing Surgery on Patients from the Room Next Door… Curious

February 10, 2016

Surgery

The surgeon, who has spent 15 minutes gently tearing through tissue, suddenly pauses to gesture ever-so-slightly with his tiny scissors. “Do you see what’s on this side? That’s nerves.” He moves the instrument a few millimeters to the right. “And on this one? That’s cancer.”

Ashutosh Tewari is the head of the urology department at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. He is in the process of removing a patient’s cancerous prostate, the walnut-sized gland in the delicate area between the bladder and the penis. This surgery—one of three that Tewari performs on an average day—takes place entirely within an area the size of a cereal bowl. Tewari’s movements are deliberate and exact. Just a few wrong cuts could make the patient incontinent or unable to perform sexually for the rest of his life.

But Tewari is making those cuts from 10 feet away. With a robot.

Surgery

From where I’m standing in the operating room, the patient is partially obscured by the large multi-armed robot that looms over him, as well as the team of surgical assistants and anesthesiologists that surround him. Tewari, meanwhile, sits at a large console. He stares into the 3D display while manipulating levers with his hands and fingers, which give him some haptic feedback. While the system resembles an old-school arcade video game, Tewari insists that there’s nothing game-like about it. Surgery is serious business.

Even from across the room, robots can make surgery better. For the surgeons, sitting at a console is less physically taxing than hunching over the body during an open procedure. The software is so sophisticated that it corrects a surgeon’s shaking hand. The zoomed-in camera view takes some getting used to, but for working in a small area, it’s great.

Source: The Surgeon Will Skype You Now

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